La Familia Michoacana
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La Familia started out as a group of vigilantes from the state of Michoacán that ended up to become allied to the Gulf Cartel. La Familia tore itself apart from the Gulf Cartel in 2006 (it even announced its foundation publicly in a local newspaper) and then quickly rose to become one of Mexico's most powerful cartels.
The cartel was led by Nazario Moreno González, better known as el más loco (the craziest one). Moreno was an avid reader of Christian self-help books, most notably those of John Eldredge, whose book Wild at Heart he had distributed amongst the rural population of Michoacán. Moreno also wrote his own 'Bible', espousing an ultra-macho Christianity. The Bible is compulsory reading for everybody who wants to join the gang and Moreno reportedly convinced elements within the Michoacano secretary of education to hand out the book in the state's schools. The cartel continuously refers to its actions as 'divine justice' and claims only to kill bad guys who try to corrupt Michoacán. Many of the cartel's members are rehabilitated drug or alcohol addicts.
The cartel is extremely violent, and started the now common practice of severing the heads of slain enemies. The cartel claims it never targets women.
The cartel is also noted for its propaganda stunts. They have advertised in several newspapers in Michoacan and they probably pioneered the tactic of leaving banners with messages to other cartels, the population or the government at night. During a live TV show in 2009, Servando "La Tuta" Gómez Martínez, the cartel's chief of operations, called the host to offer the government a truce.
Moreno was killed in Apatzingán in December 2010 in a shootout that lasted two days. During the siege, members of the cartel blockaded the roads around the state capital Morelia to prevent the government from bringing reinforcements. Moreno is so far the biggest drug lord that has been eliminated during the Mexican Drug War. Since his death the cartel seems to have lost power rapidly.
In 2011 the gang was mostly brushed away by a group calling itself the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar). The Knights Templar are a splitoff of La Familia that rose out of a power struggle after Moreno's death. The rhetoric and strategies of the Knights Templar are pretty similar to those of La Familia.