Home > The Cartels > The Familia Michoacana

The Familia Michoacana

At the height of its power, the Familia Michoacana’s brutal tactics, strong base of operations and pseudo-religious ideology made it a formidable operation and a point of fascination for outsiders. 

However, the group has suffered a series of heavy blows, most notably the death of leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias “El Chayo,” in December 2010, and is now thought to have been largely supplanted by a splinter group known as the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar). 

The Gulf Cartel is one of the oldest and most powerful of Mexico’s criminal groups but has lost territory and influence in recent years to its rivals, including its former enforcer wing, the Zetas. The Gulf Cartel’s origins can be traced to 1984, when Juan Garcia Abrego assumed control of his uncle’s drug trafficking business, then a relatively small-time marijuana and heroin operation. 

García Abrego brokered a deal with the Cali Cartel, the Colombian mega-structure that was looking for new entry routes into the United States’ market after facing a clampdown on their Caribbean routes by U.S. law enforcement. It was an agreement that, from the business side, proved irresistible both for the Cali Cartel’s leaders, the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, and for the Mexicans: Garcia Abrego would handle cocaine shipments via the Mexican border, taking on all the risks, as well as much as 50 percent of the profits.

But it took Garcia Abrego’s heir, Osiel Cardenas Guillen, to develop the Gulf Cartel’s military wing in ways never envisioned either in Cali or in Medellin. Cardenas recruited at least 31 former soldiers of Mexico’s Special Forces to act as security enforcers, for at least three times their previous pay. They were expert sharpshooters, were trained in weapons inaccessible to most of their drug-trafficking rivals, capable of rapid deployment operations in almost any environment.


The cartel’s center of operations is in the northeastern border state of Tamaulipas, with its most important operational bases in Matamoros, 
Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. 

These areas are critical from an operational and a financial standpoint. 

The cartel makes a substantial amount of money simply charging others for passage through the area. Other key northern cities include Monterrey, in Nuevo Leon, where the cartel has been locked into a increasingly intense struggle for control against the Zetas since the split early 2010.

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Categories: The Cartels
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