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The founder of one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels has been found dead

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
A wanted man.
By Frida Garza
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Authorities found the body of Carlos Rosales Mendoza, the leader of the Mexican drug cartel La Familia Michoacana, near a highway in western Mexico in the early hours of the morning yesterday (Dec. 28). Rosales Mendoza’s body was found along with three others in a car park near a highway tollbooth in the Mexican state of Michoacan, La Familia’s former power base.

The Associated Press reported that Michoacan state authorities believe Rosales Mendoza and the men were shot dead in another location and were then dumped near the highway. It is not immediately clear who may be responsible for the killing.

Rosales Mendoza, 53, was credited with starting La Familia in Michoacan in the 1980s and forging an alliance with its rivals, the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas; La Familia broke out as its own proper drug cartel in 2006. Rosales Mendoza led the gang with Nazario Moreno Gonzalez—who later spun off his own rival group, the Knights Templar. (Moreno Gonzalez was later killed by Mexican federal police forces in 2010.)

La Familia is known for its macabre brand of violence and quasi-Christian values; Moreno Gonzalez, for example, was known to carry around a “bible” of his own sayings. In 2006, members of La Familia stormed a nightclub in Uruapan and threw five severed human heads onto the dancefloor, along with a note that said:

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.

As details emerge about Rosales Mendoza’s death, authorities may also learn more about the future of the La Familia. It is common for the death of one cartel leader to simply lead to the installment of another. As Luis Astorga, a drug-war expert from the National Autonomous University of Mexico City, told Time magazine in 2011, “the capture of capos doesn’t necessarily mean defeat for the cartels. It just means new criminal coalitions, new alignments, and that process can lead to more expansive waves of violence, not less.”

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