Recent arrests of alleged kidnappers in Guerrero and arms traffickers in the State of Mexico both lead back to the Familia Michoacana, suggesting the once powerful cartel may still be stronger than is widely believed.
Security forces rescued 35 kidnapping victims from a Familia Michoacana cell in the southwest state of Guerrero, and arrested four men as part of the operation, reported Milenio.
Some of the victims, who investigators said had been kept in appalling conditions, had been held captive since October last year.
The arrests follow a recent bust of two men in the State of Mexico with a cache of heavy weaponry and ammunition, as well as several kilos of drugs.
The men admitted they worked for the Familia Michoacana, and took orders from Hector García, alias "El Player," reported El Universal. Police said the pair revealed El Player's reach extended throughout the south of the state and that he was involved in arms and drug trafficking and kidnapping.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Familia was once one of the most feared criminal organizations in Mexico, combining a quasi-spiritual philosophy with extreme violence and sophisticated criminal networks.
However, it has been torn apart by internal divisions and largely superseded by splinter group the Knights Templar, especially in La Familia's home state of Michoacan. In 2011, the government declared the group all but extinct.
SEE ALSO: Familia Michoacana Profile
However, the name of La Familia has refused to die, and has continued to sound out in various places outside of Michoacan, especially Guerrero, Mexico City and the State of Mexico. In the latter, authorities say it is one of three groups vying for criminal control of the state, along with the Gulf Cartel and Guerreros Unidos.
Both the arms traffickers and the kidnappers arrested were likely to be operating under the orders of El Player, who is believed to have taken command of the Familia's operations in Guerrero and the State of Mexico.
However, cells loyal to imprisoned Familia leader Jose de Jesus Mendez, alias "El Chango," are also believed to still be active in Michoacan, which neighbors Guerrero, reportedly striking an alliance with the Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG).
If the various regional factions of the Familia still coordinate and do not only operate as splinter groups, this raises the possibility that the group could take advantage of the vacuum left by the demise of the Knights Templar to emerge once again as a major criminal player in southwest Mexico.