Latin America & Caribbean

Mexican president pledges help for troubled Michoacan state

Vigilantes queue up to register their weapons and join a Rural Defence Corps Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Vigilantes have been registering their weapons and joining a Rural Defence Corps

The Mexican government is to double the annual budget in the troubled western state of Michoacan to try to tackle the underlying causes of rising violence.

President Enrique Pena Nieto pledged to spend $3.4bn (£2bn) on schools, roads, hospitals and other infrastructure.

Vigilante groups have spent months pushing back the main drug cartel, the Knights Templar, from the region.

On security, Mr Pena Nieto would only say that the federal forces would stay in Michoacan for as long as needed.

On a visit to the state, he said his initiative aimed to "reverse the conditions of institutional weakness" in Michoacan.

"I want to assure the people of Michoacan that we will be with you, that we will join efforts, so this great state returns to its normal activities in an atmosphere of order, calm and confidence," he said in the state capital, Morelia.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Violence in Michoacan is President Enrique Pena Nieto's most pressing security problem
Image copyright AP
Image caption Many of the vigilantes carry military style assault rifles

"We will be here as long as it is necessary until local authorities have the institutional strength to guide and ensure the integral development of the state."

Conspicuous by their absence were references to the "self-defence forces" that have taken back control of numerous towns and villages from the Knights Templar, says BBC Mexico correspondent Will Grant.

Civilians began to form militias last year to oust the cartel which was terrorising the population with murders, kidnappings and extortion rackets.

Local people accused the government of not doing enough to protect them.

The government recently reached a pact with the main vigilante groups, granting them temporary legal status by redefining them as Rural Defence Corps.

The vigilantes carry military style assault rifles that are normally illegal for civilians.

They have vowed to hold on to their weapons until the leaders of the Knights Templar have been arrested or killed.

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