News / Americas

Mexican Official Pledges Swift Return to Order in Michoacan

A Mexican federal policeman stands on the back of a police truck while loading fuel at a gas station in Tepalcatepec, Jan. 15, 2014.
A Mexican federal policeman stands on the back of a police truck while loading fuel at a gas station in Tepalcatepec, Jan. 15, 2014.
Reuters
Mexico will deliver “immediate change” to a troubled state in the west of the country that has been shaken by conflict between a powerful drug gang and heavily armed vigilantes, a newly named government official said on Thursday.
 
The government this week stepped up efforts to restore order in the impoverished, agricultural state of Michoacan, where violence has stained the security record of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office at the end of 2012.
 
Large swaths of the state have been under the control of the Knights Templar drug cartel, but earlier this month, local vigilante groups began occupying much of the gang's heartland.
 
On Monday, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong intervened, ordering the vigilantes to stand down, and on Wednesday he named Alfredo Castillo, a close ally of Pena Nieto, as federal government commissioner for Michoacan.
 
“The changes are going to be visible immediately,” Castillo told Mexican radio when asked how quickly the government would restore order in Michoacan. “But to get to the ultimate objective ... that will happen as fast as is humanly possible.”
 
The fighting in Michoacan this week converged on the city of Apatzingan, a stronghold of the Knights Templar drug gang where hundreds of federal police and soldiers moved in on Tuesday.
 
Late on Wednesday night, gunmen strafed the premises of the federal attorney general in Apatzingan, not far from where security forces were protecting the mayor's office.
 
The appointment of Castillo, who will have sweeping powers, brings the unrest in Michoacan a step closer to Pena Nieto.
 
The president has so far kept his distance from Mexico's security problems, preferring to focus on a series of reforms he hopes will revitalize the economy.
 
Pena Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, spent much of his administration bogged down in a fight to root out the gangs.
 
Though Calderon's government captured or killed many of the capos, murders increased. More than 80,000 people have died in gang-related violence since Calderon began his military offensive against the cartels in Michoacan seven years ago.
 
Homicides have dipped overall in Mexico under Pena Nieto, but murders in Michoacan hit a 15-year high last year and in October a local bishop likened it to a failed state.
 
Pena Nieto won office pledging to restore order in Mexico, but Michoacan has raised doubts about his security strategy and risks miring him in a messy conflict with no easy way out.
 
Although the government has ordered the vigilantes to stand down, the self-styled defense groups have refused, and security forces turned a blind eye to them around Apatzingan.
 
The arrival of Castillo strengthens the hand of the federal government in Michoacan, with Mexican newspaper Reforma running a headline on its front page on Thursday saying he had effectively “erased” the state's governor, Fausto Vallejo.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Attack on Colombian Police Kills 7

Defense ministry vows to 'maintain and intensify' operations against armed groups, drug traffickers following the attack
More

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More