La Familia Michoacana (The Michoacán Family) or La Familia (The Family) is a Mexican drug trafficking cartel based in Michoacán, Mexico President Felipe Calderón's home state. Formerly the Gulf Cartel —as part of Los Zetas it has split off as its own organization since 2006.
The cartel's current leader, Nazario Moreno González known as El Más Loco (The Craziest One) preaches his organisation's divine right to eliminate enemies. He carries a "bible" of his own sayings and insists that his army of traffickers and hitmen avoid using the narcotics they sell. Nazario Moreno's partners are José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Servando Gómez Martínez and Dionicio Loya Plancarte, all of which have a bounty of $2 million dollars each for their capture.
La Familia emerged to the foreground in the 1990s as the Gulf Cartel's paramilitary group designed to seize control of the illegal drug trade in Michoacán state from rival drug cartels. Trained with Los Zetas, the group splintered in 2006 into a drug trafficking operation itself. It is known to have a strong rivalry against Los Zetas and the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, but strong ties with the Sinaloa Cartel, the alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel makes them one of the strongest cartel's in Mexico.
La Familia’s boss and spiritual leader Nazario Moreno González, (a.k.a.: El Más Loco or The Maddest One) has published his own 'bible', a copy of this 'bible' seized by Mexican federal agents reveals an ideology that mixes evangelical-style self help with insurgent peasant slogans. Moreno González seems to base most of his doctrine on the work by a Christian writer John Eldredge.
The Mexican justice department stated in a report that Gonzalez Moreno has made Eldredge’s book Salvaje de corazón (Wild at Heart) required reading for La Familia gang members and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education (CONAFE) to circulate Eldredge's writings throughout the Michoacán countryside. An idea central to Eldredge’s message is that every man must have "a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live."
Eldredge quotes from Isaiah 63, which describes God wearing blood-stained clothes, spattered as though he had been treading a wine press. Then he writes: "Talk about Braveheart. This is one fierce, wild, and passionate guy. I have never heard Mister Rogers talk like that. Come to think of it, I never heard anyone in church talk like that, either. But this is the God of heaven and Earth."
On July 16, 2009, a man by the name of Servando Martínez Gómez (La Tuta) identified himself as the 'chief of operations' of the cartel. In his TV message, the self-appointed spokesman for the group stated: "La Familia was created to look after the interests of our people and our family," La Tuta said. "We are a necessary evil." When the TV presenter interrupted to ask what La Familia really wanted: "The only thing we want is peace and tranquility," came the reply. President Felipe Calderón's government refuses to strike a deal with the cartel and rejected their calls for dialog.
On April 20, 2009 about 400 Federal Police agents raided a christening party for a baby born to a cartel member. Among the 44 detained was Rafael Cedeño Hernández (El Cede), the gang’s second in command and in charge of indoctrinating the new recruits in the cartel's religious values, morals and ethics.
The cartel has moved from smuggling and selling drugs and turned itself into a much more ambitious criminal organization which acts as a parallel state in much of Michoacán. It extorts "taxes" from businesses, pays for community projects, controls petty crime and settles some local disputes. La Familia is now reckoned to be Mexico’s biggest maker of methamphetamines, as well as controlling the import, transport and sale of cocaine in the state. It also sells pirated DVDs, smuggles people to the United States, and runs a debt-collecting service by kidnapping defaulters.
On July 11, 2009, a cartel lieutenant —Arnoldo Rueda Medina— was arrested; La Familia members attacked the Federal Police station in Morelia to try to gain freedom for Rueda shortly after his arrest. During the attacks, two soldiers and three federal policemen were killed. When that failed, cartel members attacked Federal Police installations in at least a half-dozen Michoacan cities in retribution.