Surprised? Shocked, but not surprised.
NarcoGuerra Times–Cartels as Parallel State?
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…
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”.
La Familia: Another Deadly Mexican Syndicate
The death toll related to narco-trafficking in Mexico more than doubled last year, from 2,275 in 2007 to 5,207 in 2008. An increasingly important contributor to this ghastly mayhem is the shadowy Michoacana family, or La Familia. Its center of operations is the Pacific Coast state of Michoacan, home to trafficking routes and sophisticated factories for producing methamphetamine, as well as the port Lázaro Cárdenas, an open sesame for drug imports.
Although organized several years earlier, La Familia burst into the limelight on September 6, 2006, when 20 masked desperados stormed into scruffy Sol y Sombra night spot in Uruapan, Michoacan, fired shots into the air, ran up to the second floor from where they tossed five human heads onto the black and white dance floor.
They left behind a message, written on cardboard: “The family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”
From Focus On The Family to La Familia Michoacana
La Familia Michoacana was all over the news out of Mexico last week. In President Calderon’s home state of Michoacan, federales carted off ten mayors and twenty other local officials who were allegedly under the control of La Familia, an ambitious cartel often described as a “pseudo-evangelical cult.”
On Saturday an internal intelligence report on La Familia from the Mexican justice department surfaced in Milenio, bringing the news that the faith-based cartel grounds its indoctrination program on the writings of macho Christian author and veteran Focus On The Family senior fellow John Eldredge, who now heads Ransomed Hearts Ministries in Colorado Springs.
There are four separate references to Eldredge in the Mexican intelligence memo on La Familia. The cartel has conducted a three-year recruitment and PR campaign across Michoacan featuring thousands of billboards and banderas carrying their evangelical message and warnings. La Familia is known for tagging its executions and other mayhem as “la divina justica”–divine justice.
The report says La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno aka El Loco o More Chayo (”The Craziest”) has made Eldredge’s books salvaje de corazon required reading for La Familia and has paid rural teachers and National Development Education members to circulate the Colorado-based evangelical’s writings throughout the Michoacan countryside.
Braveheart vs. Mister Rogers: John Eldredge’s Walk on the Wild Side
With this in mind, take a look at Wild at Heart. The basic contention is that God created man with a wild heart, and God did this because God Himself is wild at heart. An idea central to Eldredge’s message (and quoted from the inside dust jacket of the book) is that every man must have “a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live. That is how he bears the image of God.” Eldredge holds up Braveheart hero William Wallace as an example of a real man, in contrast to the late Mister Rogers, the soft-spoken children’s TV personality, as a weak, modem Christian man.
Eldredge claims that if Christian men are going to change from a pitiful bunch of “really nice guys” to men who are made in the image of God (imago Det) they must re-examine their false presumptions about God’s character to recover their true, God-given, male identity as wild hearts. Eldredge’s message is permeated with his outdoor experiences, mixed with selected ideas gleaned from a variety of sources, including the neo-pagan offerings of several secular men’s movement writers and movies (especially, Legends of the Fall, Braveheart, and Gladiator). He combines this with loosely-interpreted Bible passages and evangelical “christianese.”
“Eldredge quotes from Isaiah 63, which describes God wearing blood-stained clothes, spattered as though he had been treading a wine press. Then he writes: ‘Talk about Braveheart. This is one fierce, wild, and passionate guy. I have never heard Mister Rogers talk like that. Come to think of it, I never heard anyone in church talk like that, either. But this is the God of heaven and earth.””
On August 18, 2006, the organization decapitated Jesús Rodríguez Valencia, a member of the Milenio Cartel, placing the following message next to his cadaver: “All that rises falls of its own weight, it would be like this, the family greets you.” Three months later, the police discovered two bodies on the Zamora-La Barca highway, next to which was a note that said: “For those who sell ice. This is divine justice. Sincerely, La Familia.” “Divine justice. No to the meth makers, La Familia,” was the text discovered alongside a body found on the Jacona-Los Reyes highway. The message appeared on a green card, reflecting the color that La Familia uses on its emblems, placards, and communications.
In all, authorities attributed 17 decapitations to La Familia in 2006 alone. Between the murder of Rodriguez Valencia that August and December 31, 2008, La Familia killed scores, if not hundreds, of people. There were 233 executions in Michoacan, most of whose victims belonged to one criminal band or another.