Uruapan, MichoacanOctober 2006
In an incident that shocks Mexico to its core, an armed group of men forces it’s way into a disco and throws 5 human heads of petty criminals onto the dance floor.
"La Familia no mata por paga, no mata mujeres, no mata inocentes. Sólo muere quien debe morir. Sépanlo toda la gente: esto es justicia divina". Is the “narcomensaje”, the posterboard message left by the gunmen.
“The family does not kill for pay, it does not kill women or innocents. Only those who deserve to die will die. Everybody understand: this is divine justice.”
A new kind of drug cartel introduces itself on that day. A cartel whose ultimate goal is to set the moral compass for society and replace the state within its territory.
Weeks later, in November 2006, La Familia paid for advertisements in the newspapers of Morelia, the state capital, directed at the population of Michoacan.
The ads read "we are a company whose mission is to eradicate in the state of Michoacan the sale of ice (methamphetamine), kidnapping, extorsion of all types and murder for hire". It also asked all family men to reflect, with Bible in hand, on joining the company.
In 2006 decapitation of organized crime murder victims was a very rare occurrence. Today the decapitation of victims is a common form of expression practiced by organized crime in Mexico.
Washington D.C.October 2009
Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA, ATF, and FBI officials announce “Project Coronado”, an operation that ultimately results in 1,186 arrests, and the seizure of approximately $33 million in U.S. currency, 1,999 kilograms of cocaine, 2,730 pounds of methamphetamine, 29 pounds of heroin, 16,390 pounds of marijuana, 389 weapons, 269 vehicles, and two clandestine drug labs.
“Project Coronado, our massive assault on the La Familia Cartel, is part of our continued fight against all of the powerful Mexico-based drug cartels,” said DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “This organization, the newest of Mexican cartels, is directly responsible for a vast majority of the methamphetamine pouring into our country across our Southwest Border, and has had a hand in fueling the cycle of violence that is wracking Mexico today.”
"This unprecedented, coordinated U.S. law enforcement action - the largest ever undertaken against a Mexican drug cartel - has dealt a significant blow to La Familia’s supply chain of illegal drugs, weapons, and cash flowing between Mexico and the United States,” said Attorney General Holder. “We will not allow these cartels to operate unfettered in our country, and with the increases in cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities in recent years, we are taking the fight to our adversaries.”
Michoacan is one of the most impoverished states in Mexico. Tens of thousands of its citizens have emigrated to the U.S. in search of the opportunity for a better life. Hundreds of these men and women have replaced those arrested in Project Coronado.
Although by some estimates drug seizures in the U.S. and Mexico now account for 30 percent of all cartel inventory, the supply of drugs on the streets of both countries has remained constant. Put more bluntly, in most of our large cities cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine can be obtained within 15 to 30 minutes by drug users.
In 2010, La Familia still has the firepower, manpower and logistical support to wage war as witnessed by the murder of 12 federal police in Zitacuaro, Michoacan last week and the execution of countless rival criminals in Guerrero, the state of Mexico, parts of Jalisco, Guanajuato and now Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas and Coahuila as La Familia extends it’s territory.
An eyewitness account from the town of Zaragoza, Coahuila, 15 miles from the site where a Canadian citizen was murdered earlier this month., speaks to the presence of “La Gente Nueva”.
“La Gente Nueva” (the New People) is a pseudonym for gunmen belonging to La Familia Michoacana brought to Northeastern Mexico in an alliance with the Gulf cartel to fight Los Zetas and gain control of drug trafficking into Texas.
“La gente nueva, pinches indios del sur, llegaron y lincharon 4 Zetas. Venian a limpiar pero son la misma mierda. Entran a las tiendas y carnicerias y agarran todo sin pagar. Siguen las extorciones y robos. Les ves los ojos, sin alma.”
“The New People, damn Indians from the south (southern Mexico). They got here and lynched 4 Zetas. They came to get rid of the scum but they’re the same. They help themselves to everything in the stores and meat market without paying. The extortions and robberies have continued. You look in their eyes, they have no soul."
The mission of La Familia in northeastern Mexico (Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Coahuila) is not to set the moral compass. It is to butcher all enemies and extract tribute from the population.
It is what the Aztecs, Indians from the south, were doing to their neighbors more than 500 years ago.
In Morelia on September 15, 2008, a large gathering of citizens celebrating Mexico’s independence day was attacked by a group of Zeta criminals with hand grenades. Eight innocent civilians were killed and up to 100 were injured.
The La Familia “narcomantas” appeared promptly with messages of support and defense of community and family and religious symbolism based on their ideology.
The messages read “we share the grief felt by our countrymen, innocent people who do not have the need to live with terrorism caused by the Zetas”.
Their ideology is based on religion and community self defense. Some authorities consider La Familia an extremely violent cult.
Several members of La Familia’s leadership belong to fundamentalist religious societies and interpret in their own way biblical passages and religious principles. John Eldredge, a Christian activist and his views on Christian masculinity and focus on warfare and violence are a strong influence on La Familia. His book “Wild at Heart” is also influential within the cartel.
Members of La Familia are heavily indoctrinated and consumption of drugs and alcohol are prohibited.
La Familia has built a loyal social base in it’s home territory which helps the needy, promoting social values such as family togetherness, employment and economic welfare. Many small municipalities have no health or education infrastructure and La Familia purchases their loyalty and, in effect, replaces the state by providing health clinics and schools. Even state of the art irrigation systems are provided.
In addition to drug trafficking, La familia controls the piracy market. They also invest in real estate, restaurants, nightclubs, discos and legitimate businesses. It is estimated that up to 85 percent of the economy in Michoacan has some ties to La Familia.
The extreme violence practiced by La Familia is a form of psychological terror used to intimidate the authorities and public servants. Up to 60 percent of the mayors and local law enforcement in Michoacan are under the control of this organization
In the hypocrisy of their worldview the defense of society, business owners, employers, farmers and ranchers occurs through the collection of protection fees. This fee ensures that the payer and his business or family will not be attacked. Otherwise they are kidnapped or executed.
La Familia is today the most belligerent force fighting the authority of the State in Mexico. It is also one of the most powerful and violent of the drug cartels, second maybe only to Los Zetas in it’s use of terror against it’s rivals and the population.