Assaults Stoke Fear, Reinforce Familia Message in Michoacan

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Several coordinated bank assaults and robberies have led shops to close their doors in Apatzingan, in the embattled state of Michoacan, local reports say.

Speculation was that the Familia Michoacan, the criminal syndicate that fought with federal police and military last week and reportedly lost its main leader, Nazario Moreno, alias “El Mas Loco,” in the battles that eleven dead, was behind the assaults, the La Jornada of Michoacan newspaper says.

The bank robberies, in particular, bore the hallmarks of the Familia, a sophisticated and ruthless gang that was trained by ex-special forces members of the army.

The Familia has controlled Michoacan using force and an appealing ideology that mixes religious martyrdom with a dose of the cold, economic reality. The rural province has suffered because of the federal government’s policies that have favored the large over the small farmers, including implementing a free trade agreement with the United States, that has left thousands out of work, scrambling to figure out a new way of life.

The Familia has been able to portray the federal troops, who first entered en masse in the area in 2006, as invaders, who do not have the ability to protect the locals. Perversely, the assaults reinforce this notion as do the reports that circulate about the federal forces’ actions.

The mayor of Apatzingan told La Jornada, for instance, that the federal troops had “raped little girls,” and violated human rights by illegally detaining locals.

The Familia’s soldiers, meanwhile, were retreating deeper into the mountains, waiting for the federal troops to vacate.

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