MEXICO CITY – Michoacan Gov. Fausto Vallejo said Thursday the region he governs in western Mexico was being completely transformed in the wake of social problems and drug-related violence.
“We are giving birth to a new state. A new state experiences very strong pains in being born,” Vallejo told Radio Formula.
Michoacan has been the scene for more than a year of fighting between drug traffickers and vigilante groups that created a vacuum of authority that government officials are trying to fill.
The federal government deployed thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers in the state over the past few months, taking on powerful drug cartels and assuming many of the security functions of state and municipal authorities.
High-level officials, including Vallejo’s right-hand man, Jesus Reyna, as well as the mayors of large cities like Lazaro Cardenas and Apatzingan, suspected of working with drug traffickers have been arrested.
Vallejo distanced himself from Reyna, who served as government secretary and was Michoacan’s acting governor from April to October 2013, saying that “every person is responsible for his own conduct.”
“Zero impunity” is the policy, the governor told Radio Formula.
Nearly 600 people have signed up with rural defense units as part of the process to bring the vigilante groups under state control, Vallejo said.
The process for registering the firearms in the hands of individuals and vigilante groups ends on Saturday, the governor said, adding that the goal was to bring the community self-defense groups under the control of state and federal officials.
“As of May 10, whoever has not registered (firearms) is outside the law,” Vallejo said.
Officials are working to both fight crime and implement development plans aimed at reducing the high unemployment rate in Michoacan, the governor said.
Unemployment is the biggest problem in Michoacan, forcing many young men to emigrate to the United States or go to work for drug cartels.
“Some 90 percent of those arrested or killed are between 18 and 29. The state is living through some serious bleeding,” Vallejo said.