MEXICO CITY -- Violent clashes between armed gangs and Mexico's security forces killed 22 people on Tuesday, marking a surge in violence in a chaotic western state where President Enrique Pena Nieto is testing a new security strategy.
The shootouts occurred after gang members blocked highways with buses and other vehicles in Michoacan, one of Mexico's most violent states. Two members of the federal police and 20 gang members were killed, Mexico's Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Pena Nieto in May sent a general to take over all police and military operations in Michoacan, where big swaths of the state have come under the control of criminal gangs who are fighting among themselves and against authorities.
Former President Felipe Calderon launched his military-led crackdown on drug cartels in Michoacan in 2006, beginning an offensive that has killed more than 70,000.
Pena Nieto has vowed to reduce the violence that has exploded in Mexico in the last decade. Since he took office in December, murders have fallen slightly, according to official statistics, but violent crime is still rampant in parts of Mexico.
The Mexican government last week captured the brutal leader of the Zetas drug cartel, Miguel Angel Trevino.