The reported arrest of a financial operator for "The Craziest One," the former leader of Mexico's Familia Michoacana, has fueled rumors that the cartel boss, hailed by followers as a saint, is still alive.
A recently detained man has been identified as the financial operator of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Mas Loco," or "El Chayo," reported BBC Mundo. The arrest feeds beliefs among Michoacan residents that the drug lord is still alive and has been directing operations ever since his "death" in December 2010. Nazario Moreno was said to have died in a firefight with national police, but his body was never recovered.
Nazario Moreno, supposedly a devout, evangelical Christian, was one of the founders of La Familia Michoacana, a drug trafficking organization rooted in the state of same name where today a splinter group, the Knights Templar, holds sway.
Journalist Jose Gil Olmos said the influence Nazario Moreno still has among the local populace is extremely important: "They note his leadership, all the people of Michoacan say he did not die… in this conflict Nazario is not only the physical leader of the Templars but the spiritual guide as well."
Some locals have even canonized him as a saint. In the community of Holanda in southern Michoacan a chapel has been built venerating Nazario Moreno's image, with writing above one column declaring, "They are lying, Nazario is alive." The leader, dead or alive, has become "one of the central elements in the war against drug trafficking" in Michoacan, said BBC Mundo.
The Mexican government has never been able to confirm his death, reported BBC Mundo.
InSight Crime Analysis
Rumors of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez being alive, and alleged sightings of him by locals, have circulated practically since the day he died. His death brought the birth of the Knights Templar, which has co-opted and incorporated his spiritual and religious rhetoric into the group's pseudo-philosophy, even filling a handbook for new members with abstract religious and moral requirements, echoing the quasi-spiritual teachings of Moreno himself.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Knights Templar
Adopting the mysticism surrounding Nazario Moreno has served as an important propaganda and recruiting tool for the Knights Templar. By perpetuating and encouraging this mythology, and the idea Moreno may still be alive, the Knights Templar hope to penetrate the social and popular consciousness and win support in the face of continued assaults against them from vigilante and state security forces.