"Narco-banners" hung around Michoacán have announced the arrival of a new criminal organization in a sign the underworld in the troubled central Mexican state is reorganizing yet again after several years of turmoil.
In the early hours of February 7, banners signed by the "Nueva Familia" (New Family) were strewn around the municipality of Zamora. The banners declared a "cleaning out" of members of the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (Cartel de Jalisco - Nueva Generación - CJNG) as well as extortionists, kidnappers, robbers, rapists and assassins, reported Proceso.
Further to the south, in the port city of Lázaro Cárdenas, banners appeared with a similar message but signed by "Los Justicieros."
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Michoacán Attorney General José Martín Godoy Castro told media that the Nueva Familia was not a new criminal organization and that the messages were placed by the network known as the Viagras, reported Excelsior. Godoy added the banners in Lázaro Cárdenas were placed by cells formerly connected to the once dominant but now largely dismantled Knights Templar.
However, intelligence officials speaking anonymously to El Universal, claimed the messages came from a new alliance formed by the Viagras and an off-shoot of the Knights headed by Homero González Rodríguez, alias "El Gallito." González is the nephew of now dead messianic drug lord Nazario Moreno González, alias "El Chayo," who was a founding member of both the Knights Templar and the organization that spawned them, the original Familia Michoacana.
InSight Crime Analysis
Michoacán has long been and remains a key territory for Mexican organized crime, but the state's underworld has witnessed serious upheaval in recent years.
First, the Familia Michoacana, which blended crime and a warped spirituality, broke apart, paving the way for its offshoot, the Knights Templar to establish themselves as the region's dominant criminal power. However, the Knights were driven out of much of the region by vigilante militias, and their top leadership has now been either arrested or killed.
Numerous networks have stepped into the vacuum left by the Knights, including the CJNG and networks that have crossed over from self-defense militias into criminality. The Viagras, for example, have a long history of criminal activity working both with underworld partners and as members of the vigilante groups.
These criminal networks may be built on new alliances -- and new confrontations -- but are strongly connected to past groups and rather than represent a new era for Michoacán organized crime can instead be considered a recycling of the same dynamic.
This process of splinter groups taking over from fractured cartels is being repeated across much of Mexico and is a reminder that taking down criminal organizations and the individuals that run them is not enough to break the grip of organized crime on Mexico.