Notorious Mexican cartel leader Nazario Moreno dead — again

Posted at 7:48 PM, Mar 09, 2014
By Catherine E. Shoichet


(CNN) — It’s deja vu, drug lord style.

Mexican authorities say they gunned down notorious cartel leader Nazario Moreno on Sunday.

By most measures, it sounds like a major victory in the government’s fight against organized crime. But there’s a catch.

He was supposed to be dead already.

In 2010, then-Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s government trumpeted Moreno’s death, announcing that he’d been killed after two days of shootouts between armed forces and criminals.

Officials revealed a surprising twist on Sunday, announcing the 2010 report of his death was inaccurate.

Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, executive secretary of Mexico’s National Public Security System, said Moreno was very much alive when federal troops cornered him on Sunday. They planned to arrest him, Rubido said, but Moreno was fatally shot after he opened fire.

For years, rumors that Moreno was still alive have swirled. Critics said the Mexican government had never proven that Moreno had been slain after the 2010 announcement.

In 2011, state prosecutors acknowledged they’d never recovered Moreno’s body and couldn’t confirm he was dead.

“We’ve never found a body, fingerprints, photographs,” George W. Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William and Mary, told CNN that year. “We know his burial site, but no one has exhumed the body. There are a lot of questions.”

On Sunday, Mexican authorities said fingerprint tests had confirmed that Moreno was killed Sunday, but they were still awaiting DNA test results.

Cartel founder, ‘spiritual leader’

Moreno — nicknamed “The Craziest One,” “El Chayo” and “The Doctor” — was a founder of La Familia Michoacana, a cartel that started in the western Mexican state of Michoacan.

The group began splintering soon after authorities announced his death in 2010, and a similar spinoff organization known as the Knights Templar strengthened its grip on the region.

The Knights Templar has increasingly found itself in the Mexican government’s cross-hairs in recent months as citizen self-defense groups in the state pressured authorities to crack down on the cartel and capture Moreno, who they claimed was still alive and leading the group.

A Mexican government dossier released in 2010 described Moreno as the brains behind many killings. Authorities said he was a self-fashioned “spiritual leader” who used religion to recruit criminals and strengthen his stronghold.

Moreno, the profile said, dubbed himself the “savior of the people” and crafted La Familia’s philosophy, outlined in a “bible” provided to new recruits.

Officials at the time said Moreno played a key role in La Familia’s philosophy — frequently displayed on banners hung in public places — which claimed to protect the state’s people.

The Mexican government’s 2010 profile of Moreno described him as one of the drug traffickers “with the most economic power and support from police organizations.”

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