Here is an excerpt from Alexandra Olson's Associated Press article:
"Known as 'The Craziest One,' he indoctrinated gang members in a pseudo-Christian ideology, and purportedly wrote a book of moral values for his cult-like cartel — all the while gruesomely decapitating his foes and selling cocaine and methamphetamine by the ton. In many ways Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, who the government says was killed during two days of shootouts between his gang and federal police in the western state of Michoacán, was the most bizarre of Mexico's druglords... Police learned that Moreno — also known as "El Chayo" or "The Doctor" — was killed in a clash Thursday between cartel gunmen and federal police, said Alejandro Poire, the government spokesman for security issues. Poire said cartel gunmen fled with several of their casualties and Moreno's body has not been recovered. But a statement from the presidential office said his death has been confirmed... Moreno, 40, was considered the ideological leader of La Familia, setting a code of conduct for its members that prohibits using hard drugs or dealing them within Mexican territory. He purportedly wrote a religiously tinted book of values for the cartel, sometimes known as 'The Sayings of the Craziest One.'... La Familia has since become one of the biggest methamphetamine traffickers to the United States. But Mexico's government claims the gang has been severely weakened after four years of fighting off its rivals and security forces." Link to Full Article
Analysis: I'm a little concerned that Moreno's body hasn't shown up yet, despite the fact that Mexican authorities are confirming his death. I've watched too many soap operas, TV dramas, and movies where the bad guy shows up again after no one can find the body. But for the purposes of my analysis, we'll make the (perhaps premature) assumption that Moreno was, in fact, killed by Mexican forces.
As you've read in my previous posts after the death or capture of major kingpins, the two things we want to know are: what will it mean for the organization, and what will it mean for the overall levels of drug violence in the relevant parts of Mexico. Before we get into that, I want to do a brief compare-and-contrast of La Familia to other Mexican DTOs by bringing in an example from South America.
When you look at South American terrorist/guerrilla groups like the FARC, ELN, MRTA, etc., they have tons in common. They're usually Marxist/Leninist, have a beef with the government only in their country, and are involved to varying degrees in the drug trade. One important thing to note is that most of these organizations are structured to withstand the loss of one or several top people. The FARC, in particular, has taken some major leadership hits in the last two years, and is still around and killing people in Colombina. Another important thing to note is that these groups operate around and are motivated by a large idea or concept; in most cases, it's communism and the overthrow of the imperialist state, although these days it's drug profits from the manufacture and distribution of cocaine.
However, one group in South America stands out, and that's Shining Path in Peru. They're also communist and want to overthrow the state, but they're a cult of personality that was centered around one man, Abimaél Guzmán. He was a professor who recruited students into his cult-like organization, and eventually introduced the Maoist model of violent insurgency into the group. They were deeply involved in the Peruvian cocaine trade, and spent over a decade terrorizing the Peruvian people.
Then in 1993, Guzmán was captured and later incarcerated. His successor - never as popular as he was - was captured in 1999. The real downfall of Shining Path, though, really started when Guzmán was caught because the whole organization centered around him and his ideals. It was a classic case of, cut off the head of the snake and the rest of the snake dies.
Moving back to Mexico, I see a lot of parallels between La Familia and Shining Path. More specifically, I see a lot of similarities between Guzmán and Moreno regarding the ways in which they started and ran their respective organizations. The question now is, will La Familia - now that they've lost their leader - go the same route as Shining Path?
Of course, one is a drug trafficking organization and the other is a terrorist group, although I believe the definitional gap between those two is getting narrower all the time. But groups like these tend to have a harder time surviving the replacement of a lost leader. La Familia is one of the more aggressively expanding DTOs in Mexico right now, and they control a lucrative share of the meth trade in southwest Mexico. They've also recently entered into an agreement of sorts with the Federation and the Gulf cartel to fend off the powerful Zetas. But will these advances hold up in the absence of Moreno?
We'll find out over the next few weeks, but I think things will be more challenging for La Familia than it would be for another, more "traditional" Mexican DTO just because of the nature of their organization. I can't speculate on who might replace him, but whoever it ends up being, they'll have a tough test to pass.