MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A chief suspect in a gunfight in western Mexico that killed 11 people turned himself in for questioning on Wednesday as the government struggles to impose order in a violent state it claims to have pacified.
Luis Antonio Torres, alias “El Americano”, a former vigilante leader turned rural police commander, and nine others turned themselves over to authorities to explain their part in the December 17 shootout in the town of La Ruana, Michoacan state.
The clash, which pitted gunmen loyal to Torres against followers of vigilante leader Hipolito Mora, has reignited fears the government is failing to control Michoacan, a state long ravaged by fighting between drug gang henchmen and vigilantes.
Mora, whose son died in the gunfight, and 26 others went in for questioning over the weekend.
Alfredo Castillo, the federal government’s security commissioner for Michoacan, said the fact the 37 suspects had turned themselves in was a sign that “the institutions were being strengthened” in the violent region.
Still, murders in Michoacan are on track this year to surpass a 15-year high of 902 reached in 2013, when the Knights Templar drug cartel had such a strong hold on the state that the Navy had to occupy its principal port, Lazaro Cardenas.