Mexico: La Familia offers to cease January 'activities' in public letter
The Mexican drug cartel La Familia has offered in a public letter to refrain from "any activities" for the first month of 2011 in order to support its claim that the federal authorities, not the cartel, are responsible for violence gripping its home-base state of Michoacan.
The letter purportedly signed by the group began appearing in Michoacan on Saturday night, local news reports said. It starts with a formal new year's greeting, then says La Familia will maintain a "withdrawal" for the first month of 2011 to "keep demonstrating to the authorities, the federal government and especially the people of Michoacan that La Familia Michoacana is not responsible for the criminal acts that the authorities and federal government report in the media."
Federal authorities say La Familia has been severely weakened since an operation in early December that resulted in the death of the cult-like group's spiritual leader, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, or "El Mas Loco."
La Familia often directs messages to "Michoacan society" in public letters or on banners known as narcomantas that are hung over bridges. The messages reflect the group's quasi-populist view of its operations, insisting regularly that the cartel works to protect the people of Michoacan from rival drug-trafficking groups and from the government.
In some sections of the state, the argument appears to have taken hold.
After Moreno's death -- which hasn't been confirmed conclusively because his body was not recovered -- a civilian peace march in the city of Apatzingan turned into an impromptu rally for the slain drug lord, featuring signs expressing support for La Familia in general. In a November letter, the group offered to disband if the federal government could "guarantee" the safety of Michoacan's people.
Last week, the government captured a La Familia cell leader known as "The Mustache." Francisco Lopez Villanueva, authorities said, was formerly a member of the rival drug group the Zetas before switching sides and joining the Michoacan cartel.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photo: Federal police on patrol in the the city of Apatzingan, Michoacan, in western Mexico, Dec. 10, 2010. Credit: Reuters