by Damian Cave
Gunmen blockaded President Felipe Calderón’s hometown on Thursday, forcing drivers from their cars, trucks and buses, then setting the vehicles ablaze in the middle of major intersections.
Jonathan Arredondo, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office in Michoacán State, where the blockade occurred, said the brazen effort stopped traffic around 11 a.m. at all five entrances to Mr. Calderón’s hometown, the colonial city of Morelia, ending only after the fires died down.
It appeared to be a show of force by La Familia, a drug gang. Several of its leaders have been arrested in recent months, but the criminal outfit — notorious for beheadings, methamphetamine production and brash attacks on government forces — continues to fight for control of the area west of Mexico City that it has dominated for years.
Only a day earlier, in a nearby city in Michoacán, a series of shootouts between federal police officers and suspected La Familia gunmen left three people dead — an 8-month-old, a 16-year-old girl and a federal officer. In a statement, the federal police said that in at least one case on Wednesday, gunmen ambushed officers from both sides of a road, using automatic rifles.
It was unclear whether the blockade was connected to the earlier violence, or was perhaps meant to rebut recent claims by a detained La Familia leader that the cartel was in decline. On Thursday, the police said that no arrests had been made so far, and that the blockade had left one man injured, with a gunshot wound in the leg.
Mr. Arredondo said the injured man was a 75-year-old diabetic. “The criminals were frustrated because he was walking slowly,” Mr. Arredondo said. “So they shot him.”
Morelia has been struck by violence before. In 2008, a grenade attack tore through a crowded Independence Day celebration, killing eight people and wounding more than 100 others.