Military force sent to Mexico's Michoacan state to quell violence

Jan. 25, 2014 at 5:51 PM
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MORELIA, Mexico, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- An increased military presence in Mexico's Michoacan state has reduced drug-related crime, giving authorities time to come up with solutions, observers said.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto last week sent a massive military and federal police force to the southwestern state to patrol cities, highways and backroads to combat the dominant Knights Templar drug cartel and armed vigilante militias, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

Nieto, who took office just over a year ago, must now work on a permanent solution to the state's high crime rates brought on by years of corruption and neglect, the newspaper said.

"It's going to be a very complicated process," said Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Benitez said the military force has been working with the vigilantes to apprehend suspected cartel members, something that former President Felipe Calderon failed to do during his attempt to bring order to Michoacan.

"The government needs to get information from an organized populace ... to be able to prosecute the Templarios successfully. Calderon lacked intelligence from the people who were being exploited by the criminals," Benitez said.

Meanwhile, vigilantes patrolling the area said they will not lay down their weapons until the government rids the state of the drug cartel.

Beyond the removal of cartels, local journalist Guillermo Valdes Castellanos said that a real fix would involve "investigating and eventually bringing to justice mayors, local deputies, state and local government officials and probably members of all of the political parties who have used their positions to put themselves at the service of organized crime."

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