Residents try to block army patrols in western Mexico

Morelia, Mexico, Mar 13 (EFE).- Residents of towns in the western Mexican state of Michoacan tried twice in a 24-hour period to block army patrols in the Tierra Caliente region, where 51 people were arrested recently on drug charges, state officials said.

A group of men and women from La Ruana, a town located outside the city of Buenavista Tomatlan, tried on Tuesday afternoon to block an army convoy carrying 47 soldiers, Michoacan government spokesman Julio Hernandez Granados said.

Residents demanded that the soldiers release 50 men and a woman detained in La Ruana while in possession of firearms and luxury vehicles.

The suspects claimed to be members of a "community police force," officials said.

Federal Government Secretariat and Michoacan Government Secretariat officials spoke with the townspeople and got them to let the troops pass.

Relatives of the 51 suspects tried to block another army convoy on La Ruana's main road, but police and soldiers prevented the group from stopping the patrol, an army spokesman said.

The illegal armed group has links to the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion drug trafficking organization, federal prosecutors said.

The group presumably receives its funding from Sinaloa drug cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman, prosecutors said.

The so-called "community police force" has been given the job of wiping out the Caballeros Templarios, a gang that controls drug production and trafficking in Michoacan.