Days after Mexico’s interior minister assured the country “was not up in flames,” a fierce gunfight between federal police and suspected drug cartel members has left more than 40 people dead.
Gunmen ambushed a police convoy Friday morning as it traveled along a highway near the border of Michoacan and Jalisco states in southwestern Mexico. Government officials say at least one police officer was killed and the majority of the other victims are believed to be cartel members or armed civilians.
The gunmen, armed with high-caliber weapons including AR-15s and a rocket launcher, appeared to be members of the cartel “Jalisco New Generation,” a criminal organization believed to have been created about five years ago as a splinter cell of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel. Mexican intelligence reports say Jalisco New Generation has quickly grown to become Mexico's most powerful cartel and the number one threat to national security.
Government officials said the Mexican army and marines have been deployed to the area.
In November, President Enrique Peña Nieto, facing growing criticism over the abduction and killing of 43 college students, unveiled a new security plan for Jalisco and Michoacan, which is located in a region known as Tierra Caliente or “Hot Earth” because of its history of civil unrest and drug trafficking.
Friday’s deadly clash comes on the heels of several violent events including the assassination of a political candidate in a Michoacan municipality known as Yurecuaro, the abduction of at least 14 people in a Guerrero town known as Chilapa and another shootout in Jalisco in which New Generation cartel members brought down a police helicopter.