Groups of armed civilians blocked highways and burned vehicles in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán yesterday in an attempt to obstruct a joint state and federal security operation.
Nevertheless, at least 40 presumed criminals were arrested and an undisclosed quantity of drugs seized, including 35 grams of a substance suspected to be methamphetamine.
Blockades were reported in the municipalities of Apatzingán, Mujica and Buenavista, all of which are known for the presence of organized crime. A bus was among at least three vehicles set on fire.
Cells of the Los Viagra criminal gang are believed to be behind the current wave of violence and instability plaguing the Tierra Caliente region.
In response to the blockades, state police carried out flyovers and increased patrols of the region to break them up, search for criminal targets and provide security to residents.
State and federal security forces — including the army, navy and Federal Police — also arrested suspected gang members in the municipalities of Villa Jiménez, Sixto Verduzco, Zacapu, La Piedad, Puruándiro, Lázaro Cárdenas, Arteaga, Uruapan, Apatzingán and Zitácuaro.
The arrests were made as part of the security mission known as Operación Limpieza (Operation Clean-up).
The state’s Secretariat of Public Security said the operation will continue in Lázaro Cárdenas, Apatzingán and Zamora in order to deter crime and maintain order.
Michoacán Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo said in a Twitter post that the government “won’t drop its guard” in the face of the resistance criminal groups are putting up against the security operation.
“With coordinated and strong actions against crime, we will continue cleansing the Tierra Caliente region [of organized crime] within the framework of Operación Limpieza,” he wrote.
In addition to the arrests, yesterday’s deployment of more than 1,000 security officials also seized seven vehicles that had been reported stolen.
A further 89 people were given infringement notices for public disturbance offenses.
The Tierra Caliente, which is also made up of municipalities in Guerrero and México state, is notorious for violent crime, drug trafficking and lawlessness.
In March this year, the army sent in more than 1,200 troops to Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente area in response to violence unleashed by the Los Viagra gang.