Mexico’s La Familia drug cartel has received “assistance from state police commanders” in the western state of Michoacan, a Federal Police report released over the weekend said.
The drug cartel, which started out in 2002 as the La Empresa gang, expanded the scope of its operations in 2006 and began calling itself La Familia Michoacana.
La Familia was allied with the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas, a group of former army special forces soldiers turned guns for hire, until 2008, but it later looked for new alliances.
The cartel, which has been targeted by the authorities, “has had its operational capability and criminal structure weakened,” leaving it nearly destroyed, the report said.
A total of 710 people linked to La Familia have been arrested, of whom 49 were in the cartel’s “command level,” the report said.
The cartel was reorganized in March, when some members left to form the Los Caballeros Templarios gang and seek new alliances with other criminal organizations.
La Familia received “institutional support” from Michoacan state police commanders and gunmen were able to use “patrol cars, radio frequencies and uniforms” from different police departments, the report said.
Criminals sometimes used state police “patrol cars to block streets so that hitmen could get away,” the report said.
“With state police infrastructure,” La Familia leaders “established the routes and security for gunmen,” the report said.
Authorities dealt a strong blow to La Familia on May 27, when 16 suspected cartel members were killed and 36 others arrested in a shootout in Jilotitlan, a city in Jalisco state.
The arrests of several other high-level members have rocked La Familia, which did not have a top leader.
Ruben Gomez Cruz, suspected of smuggling synthetic drugs for La Familia into Texas, was arrested in Zapopan, a city in the Guadalajara metro area, while Jesus Mendez, one of the cartel’s founders, was arrested last Tuesday.
Two other top La Familia leaders, Servando Gomez Martinez and Dionisio Loya Plancarte, remain at large.
Mendez’s arrest “destroys the command structure of the criminal organization,” federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said last week.
Mendez, known as “El Chango,” was “responsible for murders, kidnappings, extortion (and) corruption,” Poire said, adding that the suspect also staged attacks on officials and the public.
La Familia Michoacana’s ideological leader, Nazario Moreno, known as “El Chayo,” was killed in a shootout with Federal Police last year.
The cartel began unraveling after Moreno’s death in December 2010, analysts said.
La Familia has a pseudo-religious ideology, portraying itself as the defender of Michoacan’s residents.