Crime and Violence

Federal Police target La Familia in a spate of arrests in Michoacán

Federal Police have continued a campaign against the La Familia Michoacana cartel over the past month with a number of high-profile arrests following several attacks on police and military installments, including the killing of 12 Federal Police officers last month. U.S. and Mexican authorities attribute a large share of methamphetamines entering the United States to the La Familia cartel.

On July 21, Federal Police arrested four suspected La Familia members in connection with the murder of 12 Federal Police officers in Michoacán earlier in the month. Investigators said that one of the men detained, José Alberto López Barrón, “El Gordo,” answered directly to Servando Gómez Martínez, “La Tuta,” who controls operations for La Familia Michoacana in Arteaga and Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacan. López Barrón was reportedly in possession of a firearm issued to one of the murdered Federal Police officers.

On July 29, the Federal Police arrested Armando Quintero Guerra, who they say was in charge of finances for “La Tuta.” Aside from controlling Gómez Martínez’ expenses and revenues for the trafficking of methamphetamines, Federal Police officials claim that Quintero Guerra coordinated contacts with buyers in Los Angeles, and laundered Gómez Martínez’ earnings through the purchase of homes, luxury vehicles, and safe houses for La Tuta. Also arrested by the Federal Police was the self-proclaimed girlfriend of La Tuta.

In a high-profile raid that raised hackles in Michoacán’s religious community, Federal Police in early August stormed a Sunday Mass in the town of Apatzingan and arrested Miguel Angel Beraza “La Troca,” who U.S. and Mexican authorities say was responsible for moving a half-ton of crystal methamphetamine into the United States each month. About 40 others at the Mass were brought in for questioning. DEA acting administrator Michel Leonhart said the arrest came as a result of close collaboration between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies, and resolved to “keep attacking the La Familia Cartel, which not only controls the methamphetamine supply in several U.S. cities, but also has been the source of unprecedented violence in Michoacán.” For his part, Auxiliary Bishop José Leopoldo González recognized the effects of cartel-related violence in the region, but protested the raid, insisting that Mass is sacred. The Federal Police later apologized to the church.

General Rodolfo Cruz López, a Federal Police territorial control coordinator, reported that between January and July, 120 members of La Familia were detained and more than 40 drug laboratories were dismantled, amounting to a substantial financial blow to the group. Nonetheless, the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), which controls the Federal Police, issued a report late July detailing the reach of the La Familia cartel, which the agency says extends into China, the Netherlands, and Belgium in obtaining its precursor chemicals for methamphetamine, which it brings in through the major ports of Lázaro Cárdenas in Michoacán and Manzanillo in Colima.

From the Justice in Mexico Project’s August Monthly News Report:


de la Luz González, María. “Caen 4 implicados en muerte de 12 federales.” El Universal July 22, 2009.

Gómez, Francisco. “’La Familia’ extiende sus redes hasta Europa y Asia.” El Universal July 26, 2009.

“Detienen a operador y novia de ‘La Tuta.’” Reforma July 29, 2009.

de la Luz González, María. “Caen contador y novia de ‘La Tuta.’” El Universal July 30, 2009.

Mendoza, Martha. “Mexico arrests alleged drug operative.” Associated Press August 4, 2009.

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