By Cyntia Barrera Diaz
Mexican security forces may have killed a leader of the powerful La Familia drug cartel, a top government official said on Thursday.
National security chief Alejandro Poire said a leader of La Familia cartel was presumed dead in one of many clashes between drug gang members and authorities in the western state of Michoacan.
Asked in an interview on broadcaster Televisa if the leader was Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno, Poire said: "That is the preliminary information we have yet to confirm. It is an ongoing operation."
Since Wednesday night, armed men have hijacked cars and trailer trucks, setting many of them on fire, to block main roads into several cities across Michoacan, President Felipe Calderon's home state.
Bus services into the region have been suspended and hundreds of federal agents deployed in a bid to control what appeared to be coordinated attacks.
Moreno is believed to be the top leader of La Familia, a drug gang that uses pseudo-religious philosophy to justify the grisly murders of rivals and keep its own traffickers from abusing drugs.
He preaches Bible scripture mixed with self-help slogans to gang members and has tried to promote a mystique that is unique among Mexican gangs by claiming to protect the local population.
If his death is confirmed, Moreno will be the second drug kingpin to be eliminated in just over a month, after the killing of the Gulf cartel's Ezequiel "Tony Tormenta" Cardenas on November 5.
La Familia was hit last year by the arrests of two top leaders and is fighting the Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartel for control of Michoacan's coast, where traffickers receive illegal shipments of chemicals to make methamphetamines.
Mexican authorities offered a 30 million pesos ($2.4 million) reward for Moreno and three more La Familia members.
More than 31,000 people have been killed since Calderon launched his military campaign against drug cartels when he took office in 2006.