Gone West

Tag: Felipe Calderon

NarcoGuerra Times: The Faith-Based Cartel

La Familia corpse

The drug cartel La Familia Michoacana is, as one Mexican intelligence analyst put it, “unique.”

From all available information so far, it appears that La Familia has developed into a faith-based right-wing populist social movement emanating from and orchestrated by an organization that happens to be a well-armed, well-financed violent criminal enterprise.

La Familia has branched out from the production and transport of drugs, diversifying into counterfeiting, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and car dealerships. They’ve gone so far beyond bribery that people in Michoacan are paying mony to La Familia in lieu of taxes to the government. According to the recent Mexican federal police report on La Familia, there are 9,000 members of the La Familia “sect.”

The federales are now viewing La Familia as more of a guerrilla group than a straight-foward drug cartel. Unlike other cartels, La Familia goes beyond the production and distribution of marijuana, meth, cocaine and heroin and into the political realm. The report goes on to say that La Familia has “created  a cult-like mystique and developed pseudo-evangelical recruitment techniques that are unique in Mexico.” 

Federal intelligence officers in Mexico described La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno–El Mas Loco (The Crazy One)–as a “religious zealot” who totes around his self-published book of “aphorisms” based on the Bible and writings of US evangelical author and former Focus on The Family writer, John Eldredge. In the searches and arrests targeting La Familia across Michoacan, the one common denominator federal forces found, along with assault rifles, grenades and drugs, were copies of Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. (Salvaje de Corazon).

La Familia is strongly pro-family (and all that that implies) and requires its members to abstain from alcohol and drugs. There is an indoctrination program all La Familia recruits must go through that inculcates ” personal values, ethical and morlal principles consistent with the purposes of the organization.”  Last year La Familia brought in  two motivational speakers to lecture its members. The group is hierarchic and maintains a strict top-down emotional control of its members.

Think of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, only with more money and firepower and you get the idea.

 La Familia presents serious implications for the July 5 state and elections and not just in Michoacan. The federal intelligence report warns that   La Familia “represents a serious risk to penetrate political, social and religious structures in Michoacán and increasingly in other states of the country as Guanajuato, Mexico and the State of Jalisco.”

More to follow from La Familia writings, messages and banderas.


NarcoGuerra Times–Cartels as Parallel State?



“Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence, with powerful cartels battling each other and the security forces, as rival gangs vie for control of lucrative smuggling and distribution routes.

Armed groups linked to Mexico’s drug cartels murdered around 1,500 people in 2006 and 2,700 people in 2007, with the 2008 death toll soaring to more than 6,000. So far this year, according to press tallies, more than 2,300 people have died.”


This requisite wire service boilerplate tagged to every story that runs in the US media doesn’t get near to what is going on south of the Rio Grande/Bravo.

After two-years of  war on the drug cartels–including the military occupation of Ciudad Juarez,– Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s mano dura campaign  has little to show for all the blood and money spilled.

Last weekend an on-the-ground  report from Michoacan  came in that  threw a sobering splash of cold water on Calderon’s claims of success in his narcoguerra.  Fourteen Michoacan journalists interviewed for this report  concurred that the cartel, La Familia Michoacana  controlled at least 85% of the state.  Some said the narcos had full reign. The cartels have agreements with local, state and federal authorities to conduct business–growing marijuana or poppies, transporting and wholesaling the commodities, running prostitution and extortion rackets or whatever other cash-generating enterprise they come up with. 

In Michocan, as elsewhere in Mexico, the cartels muscle regular payoffs from businesses and city and state offcials– essentially taxing the government.  They also kill journalists that displease them or refuse to do their PR work.

But there’s another development  that takes these new  narcos to another, more interesting level where they are functioning  behind populist  ideology and in the case of La Familia, with Bible-based overtones. They refer to their assassinations and beheadings as “divine justice”.  Professor George Grayson provided a detailed backgrounder on them in February at the Foreign PolicyResearch Institute. 

Though a well-respected expert on Mexico who is frequently quoted in the media, Grayson sits on the board of the hardline anti-immigration group, Center for Immigration Studies and thus veers to the alarmist when it comes to the actual threat the cartels pose to the US.  He is an ardent supporter for the militarization of the US/Mexico border.  Last month Grayson said  “I’m with those who think that Mexico poses a much greater threat in the next few years than does Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan combined. And I’m an optimist. I think they (soldiers) are going to be needed soon.”

Which leads to the question: are the Mexican narco cartels functioning as a Parallel State? 

While  “parallel state ” is not  in wide circulation beyond  military, security and intel circles, we will be hearing  it more frequently as narco-fueled events continue to deteriorate in Mexico, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Historian Robert Paxton is credited with coining the term  to describe “a collection of organizations or institutions that are state-like in their organization, management and structure, though they are not officially part of the legitimate state or government. They serve primarily to promote the prevailing political and social ideology of the state.”

For more on this check out Plazas for Profit: Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency an analysis by John P. Sullivan and Adam Elkus  in the April edition of  Small Wars Journal.

As for all the hyper-ventilating regards the cartel invasion of your neighborhood … check this from Tucson.