Picture of a screen with a comparison of the alleged fingerprints of Nazario Moreno aka
Screen shows a comparison of the alleged fingerprints of Nazario Moreno

Nazario Moreno, leader of Mexico’s brutal cult-like Família Michoacana drug cartel, has been shot dead – this time for real, the government said on Sunday.

Moreno’s killing had been trumpeted by Mexican authorities in 2010, when the Família was one of the country’s most brutal drug cartels. But the body of “The Craziest One” was never found and officials said his followers had spirited it away.

But a fortnight after recapturing Joaquín “Shorty” Guzmán, the world’s most wanted drug lord, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto claimed another high-profile success in its fight against organised crime.

Moreno, who wrote his own quasi-Bible yet initiated recruits into the cult-like cartel that propounded “divine justice” by ordering them to kill, butcher and cook victims, died in a shootout with security forces in the western state of Michoacán in the early hours of Sunday, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, Mexico’s public security chief.

Though La Família, which burst on to the scene in grisly fashion in 2006 by dumping five severed heads on a disco dance floor, had apparently split, giving birth to the Knights Templar cartel which has proved one of the government’s biggest security headaches in recent months, reports persisted that Moreno was alive.

One senior government official acknowledged last week that “there is no evidence that he is dead”.

That was an embarrassment for a government seeking not only to crack down on organised crime but also on the impunity enjoyed by drug lords like Guzmán and Moreno, who seemed to be easily spotted by locals but invisible to the authorities despite being on the run or, in the case of the Família boss, officially dead.

Since the federal government took over security in Michoacán in January to rein in the Knights Templar which had come to hold sway in the state, intelligence that Moreno was alive had multiplied, Mr Rubido told a news conference. It was the day after his 44th birthday.

He said officials had received “constant reports from citizens and local authorities and anonymous tips that Nazario Moreno was not only alive but was continuing operating at the helm in extortions, kidnaps, crimes against health, among others”.

The police breakthrough came on February 7 when officials arrested an aide to Moreno. On March 4, they unearthed three 200-litre plastic drums full of weapons and on Friday seized a vehicle and equipment apparently belonging to the cartel leader.

Soldiers and marines closed in on him in the early hours of Sunday, but he opened fire when ordered to surrender, and in the ensuing shootout, was killed, Mr Rubido said. The government said his fingerprints and other details matched those on file.

Media reports showed pictures of people with banners reading “Nazario will always live in our hearts”, echoing demonstrations of support for Guzmán after his arrest.

Get alerts on Mexico when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article