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Entrenched Mexico drug mafia, vigilantes battle for control of agricultural Michoacan state

The western Mexico state of Michoacan is burning. A drug cartel that takes its name from an ancient monastic order has set fire to lumber yards, packing plants and passenger buses in a medieval-like reign of terror.

The Knights Templar cartel is extorting protection from all sorts of businesses, prompting a backlash in the western agricultural state. Some communities are taking up arms in vigilante patrols.

Help finally arrived on Sunday when thousands of federal troops rolled in. But the offensive looks a lot like failed operations launched by previous President Felipe Calderon, who started his first assault on organized crime in Michoacan shortly after taking office in 2006.

Calderon was trying to stop cartels from morphing into mafias controlling all segments of society. But that's exactly what has happened.