MORELIA - Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto announced plans Tuesday to spend $3.4 billion to build roads, schools and other infrastructure to shore up a troubled state where vigilantes have battled a drug cartel.
Pena Nieto said the massive project, which includes hospitals, reservoirs and an energy innovation center, aims to "reverse the conditions of institutional weakness" in the western state of Michoacan.
The president made his announcement from the state capital, Morelia, amid efforts to restore security in Michoacan following the deployment of troops and federal police to an agricultural region known as Tierra
Caliente, or Hot Land.
Civilians began to form "self-defense" militias last year to oust the Knights Templar drug cartel, which terrorized the population with murders, kidnappings and extortion rackets.
The situation in Michoacan has become Pena Nieto's most pressing security challenge, prompting him to name a special security commissioner for Michoacan, Alfredo Castillo.
Last month, the government decided to legalize the vigilante movement by allowing them to integrate into "rural defense" groups overseen by the army or join municipal police forces.
Castillo said 523 vigilantes from six municipalities have now signed up to join the rural guard and that they had registered 813 weapons.
Authorities, meanwhile, have detained 334 people suspected of committing crimes, including 128 cartel operators, he said.
"We have the firm conviction that the power of the criminals will be definitely over soon," Castillo said.