By Mario Andrade
June 22, 2011
Yesterday, the Mexican government announced the capture of alleged La Familia Michoacana drug cartel leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, aka El Chango or the Monkey. While parading Mendez Vargas in front of the media cameras, Mexican officials were bragging about how La Familia will now disintegrate and will no longer function as a criminal organization after the "heroic" actions that led to his capture during a joint military-federal police operation.
However, nothing could be further from the truth. Mendez Vargas was, in essence, already out of the criminal organization known as La Familia for several months now. After the death of his predecessor, Nazario Moreno, aka El Chayo, last December, members of La Familia rejected Mendez Vargas as their new leader. The drug cartel lieutenants suspected that he was working for the U.S. Government, and in fact, he turned out to be the point man for the BATF's notorious drug-running program known as "Operation Fast and Furious." Mendez Vargas organization purchased (from BATF agents) a .50 caliber Barrett rifle that shot down a Mexican Federal Police helicopter last month in his neighborhood in Apatzingan, Michoacan. His neighborhood is, coincidently, next to a military base.
Last January, as soon as Mendez Vargas took control of La Familia Michoacana, the organization split in two factions. For the most part, Mendez Vargas kept the drug smugglers and his inner circle known "as the Twelve Apostles." The other half of the criminal organization, composed mostly of strike teams led by his rivals Enrique Plancarte and Servando Gomez Martinez, aka La Tuta, left and created their own organization, known as "the Knights Templar."
Recently, the Knights Templar have been carrying out ritualistic Masonic-style executions, killing and hanging "traitors" from bridges.
Since the word on the street was that Mendez Vargas was involved in the BATF's drug-running program, his Gulf Cartel and Sinaloa Cartel colleagues began to abandon him. He was already forced out of business and he could no longer pay his people. His own organization members became his enemies and ran him out of the state of Michoacan. But it was only after he desperately tried to join forces with Los Zetas (the number one enemy organization of the Mexican narco-government complex) when he was finally arrested. He worked out a deal with the Mexican government to turn himself in and will probably become a "protected witness."
In the early days, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas worked for the then Gulf Drug Cartel leader Osiel Cardenas (until 2002), whose trial in Houston had to go to closed-door sessions because he testified and provided names of DEA and CIA operatives at the leadership of narcotic-smuggling organizations. Mendez Vargas, Cardenas, and DEA saboteur Edgar Barbie Valdez recruited Heriberto Lazcano (who's rumored to have been killed by the military in Matamoros last week) to create the criminal organization known as Los Zetas, who were originally elite Mexican special forces soldiers trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. Mendez Vargas was arrested ten years ago, but he was released by the Mexican government for no apparent given reason (government snitch?).
La Familia Michoacana is known as one of the most violent criminal organizations in Mexico. It uses religious fanaticism to control its members and to brainwash young men so they can carry out suicide strike missions against other criminal organizations and police. This drug cartel has operatives on both sides of the border and it's one of the biggest producers of crystal meth. According to Dr. George W. Grayson from the Army War College, La Familia is one of the biggest threats to U.S. and Mexican security due to the nature of the religious fanaticism and cult-like brainwashing among its members.
After the arrest of Mendez Vargas, it is very likely that the Knights Templar will re-join forces with the old Familia members and they will become more powerful and dangerous than ever.