08/02/13 – July saw a surge in violence in the state of Michoacán in the Pacific Coast of Mexico, a month in which a self-defense group (grupo de autodefensa) was shot at during a protest, and officers from the Federal Police (Policía Federal, PF) and the Navy (Secretaría de Marina, SEMAR) were ambushed by armed groups, which led to several casualties including that of a high-ranking Navy officer.
On Monday, July 22, a group of gunmen opened fire during a protest by members of a self-defense vigilante group against the criminal organization known as the Knights Templar. Approximately 300 masked vigilantes were at the gates of the city hall in the town of Los Reyes threatening to take over police functions because of the insecurity caused by uncontrolled criminal groups in the area when three gunmen allegedly opened fire towards the crowd killing five people, including one police officer and one civilian who was not involved with the protest.
The following day on Tuesday, July 23, several Federal Police convoys were ambushed in at least six attacks throughout the region known as the Hot Land (Tierra Caliente) where alleged members of the Knights Templar blocked roads and attacked patrols as they passed through. According to official reports, the police officers were able to repel the attacks, killing at least 20 gunmen and wounding 15 others. Federal Police reported two PF casualties.
A seventh ambushed against the Federal Police occurred on Wednesday, July 24, where a group of assailants attacked a convoy of patrols close to the town of Pichilinguillo in Tierra Caliente close to the port of Lázaro Cárdenas, where at least four PF agents died. For its part, the National Comission of Security (Comisión Nacional de Seguridad, CNS) reported that the clash occurred around midnight on July 23, and that only two officers were killed.
Only three days later, two members of the Mexican Navy, including a Vice Admiral, were killed while they were driving along the northwestern region of the state. According to official information, Vice Admiral Carlos Miguel Salazar Ramonet, commander of the Eighth Naval Zone based in Puerto Vallarta in the neighboring state of Jalisco, and other members of the Navy, including Second Master Francisco Ricardo Hernández Mercado, were traveling in the region on Sunday, July 27, when an armed group opened fire on their vehicle. Both Salazar and Hernández died.
This series of attacks came after an increasing wave of violence and insecurity in Michoacán that led the Peña Nieto administration to launch a new operation in mid-May to combat organized crime. As reported by the Justice in Mexico Project, the operation was the first of its kind since Peña Nieto assumed presidency in December 2012, and included the deployment of the Army (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA) and the Navy, and the appointment of an Army General as the new public security chief. As a result of the most recent attacks, President Peña Nieto ordered the military forces, the Federal Police, and the Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) to support law enforcement in the regions of Michoacán where criminal groups have increased their control and presence.