Pubdate: Mon, 13 Jul 2009
Source: Washington Post (DC)
Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company
Author: William Booth, Staff Writer


Coordinated Ambushes Said To Be Revenge For Capture Of A La Familia

MEXICO CITY, July 12 -- Authorities were interrogating a captured
ringleader of the drug cartel La Familia on Sunday, after the violent
crime syndicate launched a series of coordinated commando attacks
against federal police and Mexican soldiers during the weekend that
left five dead and a dozen wounded.

The ambushes by La Familia in eight cities spread across the western
state of Michoacan on Saturday were carried out with disciplined force
by small but bold units of cartel gunmen, backed with military-grade
assault rifles and grenades.

The offensive began in the capital, Morelia, and lasted 10 hours. The
attacks, in which convoys of gunmen sprung surprise attacks on
government positions, occurred near sites popular with tourists,
including the arts-and-crafts town of Patzcuaro and nearby Zitacuaro,
famous for its migrating monarch butterflies. Much of the fighting
took place in and around cities where the federal government arrested
10 mayors last month on suspicion of colluding with La Familia.
Mexican media reported two more attacks Sunday.

The assaults mark an escalation in Mexico's drug war, which has killed
more than 11,000 since President Felipe Calderon launched it in
December 2006.

Federal police say the attacks by La Familia, Mexico's newest and most
violent mini-cartel, were in retaliation for the capture of one of the
group's leaders.

A senior U.S. drug enforcement official recently called La Familia
"the new face of drug trafficking in Mexico." The official added that
La Familia has a presence in at least 30 U.S. cities.

Ramon Peque=F1o Garcia, chief of anti-drug operations at Mexico's
Public Security Ministry, said in an interview last month that La
Familia is fighting for control of cocaine smuggling routes heading
north from the port of Lazaro Cardenas toward the United States. The
group also runs methamphetamine factories and marijuana plantations,
and carries out kidnappings and extortion activities.

The attacks began at dawn Saturday in Morelia shortly after the arrest
of Arnold Rueda Medina, reported to be the right-hand man of La
Familia founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, known as "El Mas Loco," or
the Craziest One. He recruits troops to his cartel from the ranks of
rural militias and drug treatment centers. El Mas Loco is known as the
author of a slim book of folk wisdom and is infamous for masterminding
torture-slayings that include branding the bodies of victims before
their decapitation.

After La Familia gunmen were repelled in their attempt to free Rueda,
they apparently went on their revenge spree. At one point, they
attacked a hotel in Apatzingan where federal police were staying.

On Sunday afternoon, federal police announced that they had arrested
two young gunmen in connection with the attacks. 
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