27 September 2009

Mexican drug cartel peddles meth, preaches religion


I travelled to the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán last month to speak with local Catholic officials about the Aug. 1 raid on an Apatzingán parish that nabbed a cartel kingpin that federal officials say was responsible for sending truckloads of meth from clandestine labs to the United States. Church officials in Apatzinagan obviously objected to raids on religious events and being expected to play the role of detectives for the Federal Police and Army - whose intelligence gathering is woefully inadequate.

We also spoke about the supposed religiosity of "La Familia Michoacana," a drug cartel known for its acts of charity and piety - along with acts of gratuitous violence such as beheadings. La Familia leaders often speak of "imposing order," condemn the consumption of the very products they manufacture and smuggle, and even preach a homespun version of the gospel from their very own religious text. The cartel also has been the focus of an intense crackdown by federal officials - and, frankly, an embarrassment for federal officials, who had to send reinforcements to President Felipe Calderón's home state in July as a response to La Familia counterattacks.

Here's my dispatch on La Familia's supposed religiosity, published by Canwest News Service.

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