Leader of cult-like La Familia gang arrested

Federal authorities have arrested the leader of La Familia, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, and the contend that the cult-like group’s reign in the state of Michoacan has come to an end.

The Christian Science Monitor says Mexican authorities

have arrested the leader of La Familia, the drug trafficking organization that espouses religious ideals, but gained worldwide notoriety when it tossed five human heads onto a dance floor in Michoacan state four years ago. Since then La Familia has made money and wielded influence through not just drug running but kidnapping, extortion, intimidation, and murder.

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, also known as El Chango, or “The Monkey,” was arrested in the state of Aguascalientes, the government announced Tuesday.

“With this arrest, what remained of the structure of this criminal organization has been destroyed,” security spokesman Alejandro Poire said at a news conference.

His arrest follows the death of the group’s founder, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, in December.


The Los Angeles Times says that

Mendez led a faction of La Familia, the ruthless and sometimes cult-like network that authorities say specializes in producing and shipping methamphetamine to the United States. La Familia is based in Michoacan, the home state of President Felipe Calderon and a region strategically important for drug trafficking because of its rough terrain and large seaport. […]

Eliminating Mendez, whose alias means the Monkey, is a significant blow, analysts said, because he was the brains behind much of the organization’s vast trafficking operation as it grew by leaps and bounds in the last six years.

But La Familia has morphed into a number of heavily armed factions that are still active and are moving tons of cocaine and marijuana, along with meth, into U.S. markets, authorities say. Moreover, the capture of Mendez could clear the way for the even more violent Zetas to make further headway in La Familia’s territories of Michoacan and Guerrero, both Pacific states with long coastlines.

La Familia began to splinter after the death of its founder and top leader, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, known as “El Mas Loco” (the Craziest). He was killed by Mexican security forces in a major offensive in December.

With Moreno gone, Mendez disputed over control of La Familia with Servando “La Tuta” Gomez Martinez. The two split violently this year, with Gomez creating a faction bizarrely named the Knights Templar, after the Christian warriors of the Crusades.

The Wall Street Journal adds

Mr. Moreno, nicknamed “El Mas Loco,” or the craziest one,” was viewed as the cartel’s spiritual leader while Mr. Méndez was its key operator, said George Grayson, a professor at The College of William and Mary in Virginia and expert on Mexico’s cartels.

La Familia bases part of its ideology on the evangelical Christian book “Wild at Heart,” by John Eldredge of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Ransomed Heart Ministries.

Incongruously TIME magazine used that fact to identify the cult-like group as “a violent but Christian fundamentalist narco-gang.”

The term ‘Christian Fundamentalist‘ is often misused, usually by people with little to no insight into Christian theology.

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This post was last updated: Dec. 17, 2014