La Familia Drug Cartel: Implications for U.S.-Mexican Security

  • December 01, 2010
  • Dr George W Grayson

La Familia Michoacana burst onto the national stage on September 6, 2006, when ruffians crashed into the seedy Sol y Sombra nightclub in Uruapan, Michoacán, and fired shots into the air. They screamed at the revelers to lie down, ripped open a plastic bag, and lobbed five human heads onto the beer-stained black and white dance floor. The day before these macabre pyrotechnics, the killers seized their prey from a mechanic’s shop and hacked off their heads with bowie knives while the men writhed in pain. “You don’t do something like that unless you want to send a big message,” said a U.S. law-enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity about an act of human depravity that would “cast a pall over the darkest nooks of hell.” The desperados left behind a note hailing their act as “divine justice,” adding that: "The Family doesn't kill for money; it doesn't kill women; it doesn't kill innocent people; only those who deserve to die, die. Everyone should know . . . this is divine justice.” While claiming to do the “Lord’s work,” the ruthless leaders of this syndicate have emerged as the dominant exporter of methamphetamines to the United States, even as they control scores of municipalities in Michoacán and neighboring states.