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Armed men have blockaded a western Mexican city, torching stolen cars and buses in a second day of violence that has left at least three people dead, including an eight-month-old baby.
The men arrived at all five roads leading into Morelia and fired into the air to force drivers and passengers from their vehicles, Jonathan Arrendondo, a spokesperson for the attorney general’s office of Michoacan state, said on Thursday.
The burnt-out vehicles were used to block the roads into the city.
Such blockades have become a common tactic used by the cartels in Mexico’s drug war.
The practice started earlier this year in northeastern Mexico, where the Gulf and Zetas drug gangs are locked in a fierce turf war, and recently spread to Michoacan, home state of Felipe Calderon, the president.
Michoacan is a stronghold of La Familia cartel, which is known for beheadings and attacks against the government security forces.
It was the second time in less than a month that armed men have blocked roads leading into Morelia.
The blockades came a day after three people were killed in a shootout between suspected La Familia members and federal police in Apatzingan, another city in the state.
It was unclear if the blockades and the shootout were related.
One of those killed was an eight-month-old baby who was riding in a taxi with his mother.
The other was the teenage daughter of a former Apatzingan mayor, Luis Mendez, state police investigator, told Milenio television.
The girl was also riding in a car caught in the crossfire and was not deliberately targeted.
A police officer was also killed, the federal public safety department said in a statement on Thursday.
The shootout began when federal police investigating a tip about the presence of armed men came under fire from suspected La Familia gang members, the statement said.
Another group fired on civilian vehicles and used the cars as barricades, but it was unclear if the cars were those in which the baby and teenager were riding.
The public safety department statement said a third group ambushed another federal police unit trying to come to the aid of their colleagues.
The armed men blocked a highway leading into Apatzingan to prevent the police from advancing.
The emergence of blockades in Michoacan have coincided with the arrest of several key La Familia leaders.
One of those suspects, Sergio Moreno Godinez, said last month that the cartel is in decline.
He confirmed the authenticity of a letter, emailed to journalists and dropped on the streets of several towns, saying the cartel wants to disband and negotiate a truce with authorities.
The government has ignored the offer.
La Familia, which officials say is Mexico’s main trafficker of methamphetamine, captured worldwide attention in 2006 by rolling severed heads onto a disco floor in the city of Uruapan.
Shortly afterward, Calderon sent thousands of federal troops and police into Michoacan.
He has since deployed thousands more to other cartel strongholds in Mexico, and drug gang violence has surged, claiming more than 28,000 lives.
In northern Chihuahua state, meanwhile, six people were gunned down on Thursday morning by the side of a highway leading south of the capital, also called Chihuahua.
Witnesses told police that gunmen drove up, forced the six men out of the car, shot them and fled, said Carlos Gonzalez, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.
And in the resort city of Acapulco, a traffic cop was found shot to death on a road, his hands bound.