By OLGA R. RODRIGUEZ Associated Press
MEXICO CITY—The operational leader of Mexico's La Familia drug cartel has confirmed the death of its ideological chief, according to a recording broadcast Wednesday by a television network.
The Televisa network said the recording was made by Servando Gomez Martinez (a) La Tuta, on Dec. 9 as he addressed cartel members over a radio frequency hours after the death of the group's leader, Nazario Moreno, nicknamed El Chayo "The Craziest One" or "The Doctor."
"Remember guys that even though our maximum leader is no longer here, may God have him with him, we have to move forward," said the voice, described as that of Gomez.
Authorities say Moreno was killed in a shootout with federal police who had gone to investigate a drug gang party in the western city of Apatzingan, but that gunmen took his body when fleeing.
Moreno, 40, was considered the ideological leader of La Familia, a quirky figure who urged cartel members to follow a code of morality even as they were decapitating rivals and terrorizing civilians in their home state of Michoacan.
He reportedly prohibited members from using hard drugs or dealing them within Mexican territory, and handed out Bibles and money to the poor.
Televisa said the recording was sent to its offices anonymously.
The voice is similar to that of a man who called a live television program in 2009, identified himself as Gomez and said he was ready to make a deal with the government. It also sounds like the voice in a taped telephone conversation that officials say showed a federal lawmaker talking with Gomez.
Federal prosecutors presented that recording to Congress as proof that Congressman Cesar Godoy has links to La Familia. On Tuesday, the lower house of Mexico's Congress voted to rescind Godoy's congressional immunity from prosecution. Godoy was not present at the vote, and his whereabouts were unclear.
Officials at the Attorney General's Office refused to confirm or deny the authenticity of the new recording on Wednesday.
Authorities say Gomez, a former elementary school teacher, heads operations for Michoacan-based La Familia. He is also wanted in the United States, where he is accused of importing and distributing large quantities of methamphetamine and cocaine from Mexico.
La Familia has been the most flamboyant of Mexico's drug cartels, combining violence with religious messages and professions of love for their state. The gang claims it is trying to protect Michoacan—President Felipe Calderon's home state—from other cartels and common criminals, a message it touts in banners and even in occasional interviews with the news media.
Since Moreno's reported death, sympathizers—some with small children—have marched repeatedly in Apatzingan and the state capital of Morelia carrying signs supporting the capo and demanding the withdrawal of federal forces.