MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican armed forces have taken charge of security in the Pacific port of Lazaro Cardenas, a major cargo hub in a part of the country struggling to contain violent drug gangs.
The government said yesterday that units of the army, navy and federal police were moving in to oversee access to and around Lazaro Cardenas, one of Mexico’s principal gateways to trade with Asia on the southern flank of Michoacan state.
Michoacan has been a regular flashpoint for shootings and attacks on officials since President Enrique Pena Nieto took power 11 months ago pledging to bring an end to widespread violence stemming from warring drug cartels. Government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said the decision to replace local police in Lazaro Cardenas was part of a series of measures aimed at restoring stability to Michoacan.
The specter of terrorism was conjured up by some security experts when various installations belonging to Mexico’s state-run electricity company were temporarily knocked out in a series of attacks in Michoacan last weekend.
Throughout the year, serious gunfights have broken out in the state and Pena Nieto himself admitted this summer that gangs had taken control of parts of Michoacan.
Among the victims of the local violence was a vice admiral killed in a road ambush in July, and a state congressman who was hacked to death with a machete in September.
Pena Nieto’s predecessor as president, Felipe Calderon, launched his military-led offensive against drug cartels in Michoacan shortly after taking office in December 2006.
But Calderon could not bring the gangs to heel, and around 80,000 people have since been killed in drug-related violence.
Lazaro Cardenas handles the largest volume of general cargo of any Mexican port, according to the Mexican tax office.