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Mexico’s energy sector has caught the eye of the drug cartels as an easy target to attack in its renowned war against the government. In the early hours of Sunday morning gunmen attacked at least nine electrical power stations in the troubled western state of Michoacan, knocking out the power to around a million people for 15 hours.
Jaime Mares, the Interior Minister for the state of Michoacan, announced on Monday that the substations were attacked in order to knock out the lights on a large scale and provide cover for subsequent attacks against gas stations, which were torched.
Energy Minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell stated that the government had sent extra security forces to the region in order to increase the military presence at facilities owned by the state-run electrical company, the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), and the state-run oil monopoly PEMEX.
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Historically the state of Michoacan was controlled by La Familia, but more recently that mantle has passed to los Caballeros Templarios, who specialise in the production and distribution of methamphetamine which is exported to the United States.
Raul Benitez, an expert on security at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), told Reuters that he believes the attacks were made in response to the government’s efforts to crack down on the operations of los Caballeros Templarios.
Benitez explains that the attack will only strengthen the government’s resolve and force them to send more military forces to the region. “It’s a decision to carry out general terrorism, and this will now lead to a very strong response by the government, backed by the population.”
Vigilantes in Michoacan.
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Interior Minister Mares said that there were no casualties reported from the attacks, although five of the cartel’s men were apparently gunned down by vigilantes in the town of Aguililla, near the city of Apatzingan.
Groups of vigilantes have begun to spring up around the state as locals take up arms, having lost faith in the federal police’s ability to protect them from the cartels.
At the end of 2006 former President Felipe Calderon launched a military campaign against the drug cartels in Michoacan, capturing and killing many of the leaders, but it did little to loosen the cartel’s grip on the region, or lessen the violence which has claimed 80,000 lives since that time.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com