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To tame drug violence, Mexican general takes control of chaotic Michoacan

As part of President Enrique Pena Nieto's strategy against drug violence, Alberto Reyes, a Mexican general was given control over all police and military operations in the western state of Michoacan.

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Calderon had sent out generals to lead operations in violence-racked states and cities such as Tijuana andJuarez, but they did not control the state and city police.

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Michoacan has been grappling with civil unrest since April. Protesters repeatedly blocked major streets and highways in the capital and others cities. Compounding matters, vigilante groups have sprung up in the region this year, with masked militiamen claiming that state and federal police are not protecting them from criminal gangs.

Michoacan is a major center for methamphetamine production. Rival gangs are fighting over turf as they produce the drug in labs nestled among the poor state's rugged mountains, where marijuana and opium crops are also grown.

The state is known for brutal violence. In 2006, the feared La Familia cartel hurled five heads onto a cantina dance floor, setting off a wave of decapitations across the country that have typified many drug-related executions.

Earlier this year, seven bodies were set out on lawn chairs in the same town of Uruapan with a message for rival cartels.

"We want a more peaceful place," said Acting Governor Jesus Reyna at an event marking the general's new powers. "So that businessmen can do their work ... and citizens can go out in the streets in peace."

Pena Nieto says he wants to improve coordination among the country's different police forces, which have been subject to the unrelenting pressure of threats and bribes from the gangs.

"We are looking for a unified command with municipalities. This is going to be a minister with a lot of authority, with a lot of power," Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio said in a radio interview.

Many companies have shuttered operations or moved businesses in Michoacan amid the spike in violence in recent years, according to local media reports.

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