A vigilante group in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero on Friday blocked the highway between the Mexican port of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo to demand that the federal government enact measures to restore safety to the region.

Residents of the Tecpan de Galeana municipality, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Zihuatanejo, blocked traffic on the federal highway starting Thursday "to demand that the president (Enrique Peña Nieto) clear the area of organized crime," Leopoldo Soberanis told Efe.

In a statement over the phone, Soberanis, a leader of the self-described Citizen Self-Protection Group, said the presence of the Caballeros Templarios crime organization in the region "has hurt tourism and the production of our villages."

The leader complained that the governor of Guerrero, Angel Aguirre Rivero, has "ignored people's reports on the presence of the Caballeros Templarios," a group that operates in several of the state's municipalities including the tourist areas of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo.

For that reason at least 600 armed men have had roadblocks set up since Thursday on the Acapulco-Zihuatanejo highway in six villages of Tecpan de Galeana, which has left hundreds of tourists stranded on the road.

Soberanis said the "Caballeros Templarios are robbing locals of their mango and coconut crops, they're stealing trucks carrying livestock and collect protection money from storekeepers, cattlemen and business owners" in the area.

He also said they are suspected of being behind the deaths of 45 people and of disappearing 19 others since the beginning of the year.

Up to now not a single local or federal authority has showed up at the roadblocks to talk with the armed men or to try and clear the highway.

The Caballeros Templarios, which appeared in March 2011 as an offshoot of La Familia Michoacana cartel, has been identified as responsible for kidnappings, homicides, and the extortion of storekeepers and truckers. EFE