MEXICO CITY -- Assailants early Sunday blew up at least nine electrical power plants in one of Mexico’s largest states, triggering blackouts that gunmen then used as cover to torch gasoline stations, residents and authorities said.
The attacks in Michoacan state, west of the capital, did not cause deaths or serious injuries, authorities said. But they served as a pointed reminder of the strength of drug gangs and other criminals.
Shortly after midnight, attackers armed with Molotov cocktails almost simultaneously disabled electrical substations in at least nine cities and towns in Michoacan, plunging an estimated 1 million people into darkness. The power was out for 15 hours.
Gunmen then torched four gasoline stations, including two in the state capital of Morelia, a popular tourist destination.
Michoacan for years has been controlled either by the Knights Templar or its predecessor La Familia, cartels that specialize in methamphetamine exported to the United States and that have controlled many city halls and police departments. More recently, groups of citizens have taken up weapons to form self-defense squads against the traffickers.
It may have been one of these groups that briefly seized the city hall in the large town of Apatzingan, residents said.
Federal authorities said they were sending hundreds of police and military troops to reinforce security in the region. The attacks came barely two days after the state’s governor, Fausto Vallejo, resumed duties after a long illness.
“The only thing we can conclude ... is that the organized criminals are winning the battle against federal and state authorities,” Miguel Angel Chavez, head of the opposition National Action Party, told the Quadratin news agency, adding that the violence of the last 24 hours was a terrorist attack.
Organized criminals were suspected of unleashing a series of attacks on government forces in Michoacan in July that resulted in the deaths of 20 criminals and two federal police officers, according to the federal government.