MEXICO CITY — The bodies of eight slain men were found in southern Michoacan state Friday — the same day President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited the state to celebrate the opening of another National Guard installation there.

Authorities said the shooting deaths happened in Huetamo, roughly 250 miles (400 kilometers) southeast of Jiquilpan, where the president celebrated the guard’s new deployment on Valentine’s Day.

The men had all been shot high-powered weapons, official said. A stolen SUV was also found at the scene. No further details were released by investigators.

Mexico is experiencing record-levels of homicides since López Obrador took office Dec. 1, 2018, after campaigning on a “hugs not bullets” platform that rejected prior government efforts to stem violence.

Michoacan is one of the deadliest Mexican states. Last week, gunmen killed three boys, a teenager and five others who were playing video games at an arcade in Uruapan, another dangerous city in the state where drug organizations are battling for territory.

At the celebration Friday for the National Guard’s latest installation in Michoacan, the president doubled down on his philosophy, saying the country must address the roots of violence first, like creating more jobs with better pay and seeing justice through.

“You can’t confront evil with evil,” he said.

The National Guard now has 22 outposts in Michoacan, López Obrador said. The president created the guard to combat violence, although thousands of its agents have been given the task of immigration enforcement across the country.

“We are committed to guaranteeing peace and tranquility in our country,” he said.

There were a reported 35,588 homicides in Mexico last year, the most since comparable records began to be kept in the 1990s, though the rate of increase was far lower than in previous years. Since then-President Felipe Calderón launched a militarized anti-drug offensive beginning in late 2006, annual killings have more than tripled in the country.

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