Arrested Kingpin Reveals Zeta-Familia Alliance

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The arrested leader of Mexican drug gang the Familia Michoacana revealed that he had recently sought an alliance with the Zetas to support his group in its standoff with rivals the Caballeros Templarios.

Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias “El Chango,” was arrested on Tuesday and paraded before the media on Wednesday. (See video below).

He reportedly told police of his group’s nascent alliance with the Zetas. This arrangement would have gone against the prevailing dynamic in Mexico, where many cartels have teamed up to fight the Zetas. The group has provoked singular disfavor among Mexico’s gangs because of its proclivity for violence and ambitious expansion into other organizations’ territories. Indeed, the Familia had been part of the so-called United Cartels, an anti-Zetas alliance that also included the Gulf and Sinaloa Cartels.

The Familia was initially sponsored by the Zetas when it rose to prominence in the southern Pacific state around 2006, allowing the Familia to wrest control of the state from the Milenio Cartel. However, relations between the two allies quickly frayed, and they have spent the past several years as adversaries.

But the strain of Mendez’s internecine battle with the Caballeros Templarios, a Familia offshoot headed by former ally Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta,” evidently prompted him to overcome whatever differences he had previously had with the group. As a result of the pact, the Zetas agreed to send 200 gunmen to assist the Familia, authorities say.

Mendez Vargas was arrested at a checkpoint in Aguascalientes, reportedly without a struggle. His comments about the inner workings of the drug trade suggest that he is cooperating with authorities, which may mean there are more revelations to come.

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