It’s true that Mendez’s arrest probably dealt the final, fatal blow to La Familia, which once controlled most of the drug trade in Mexico’s Michoacan state.
But it’s also true that La Familia’s power has dwindled dramatically since the December 2010 death of its founder, the quasi-messianic Nazario “El Mas Loco” Moreno (he wrote his own Bible that La Familia members are required to follow).
Mendez’s capture likely won’t have any effect on reducing the drug violence in Michoacan. The fact that he was arrested at a police checkpoint indicates that Mendez probably wasn’t that hard to nab in the first place.
Mendez and the remaining La Familia members have been under attack by a new gang of narco-evangelicals calling themselves the Knights Templar, who are led by La Familia’s former operational chief Servando “La Tuta” Gomez. The rival factions are now vying for control of La Familia’s lucrative meth business.
The Knights subscribe to La Familia’s ruthless brand of narco-Christianity — Gomez and the late Moreno converted to Evangelical Christianity while working as migrants in the U.S. and have referred to their be- headings and assassinations as “divine justice.” The Knights have already gained a reputation for extreme brutality – the gang displayed at least 9 bodies last week with warnings that they would take down any allies of La Familia or Los Zetas, another powerful Mexican cartel.
The WSJ notes today that the inconsequence of Mendez’ arrest once again calls into question Mexico’s drug war strategy targeting cartel leaders. The country has caught or killed 21 of the 37 most-wanted cartel bosses since 2009, but the leadership vacuum seems to spawn increasingly brutal cartel factions.
Cartel expert David Shirk compares it to the ‘Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ – every time you break a broom, the problem just gets worse.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.