Mexico City – Jesus "El Chango" Mendez, leader of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel, told authorities after his arrest this week that the organization is close to complete collapse, Mexico's Public Safety Secretariat said.
The detainee, who was captured in a police operation in the central state of Aguascalientes without putting up any resistance, said in remarks released Thursday that La Familia is "going to be dismantled" and that its days are numbered.
Mendez is one of the founders of the gang that emerged in the western state of Michoacan in 2006 and is known for its pseudo-religious ideology and for portraying itself as the defender of the state's residents.
The suspect was "responsible for murders, kidnappings, extortion (and) corruption," federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said after his arrest on Tuesday, adding that Mendez also staged attacks on officials and citizens.
His arrest is the latest blow to La Familia, whose ideological leader, Nazario Moreno, known as "El Chayo," was killed in a shootout with Federal Police last year, Poire said.
Moreno's death touched off a deadly power struggle pitting followers of Mendez and another faction headed by Enrique Plancarte Solis and Servando Gomez Martinez, who formed Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar).
Regarding that latter faction, the detained kingpin said it "has no future" because the government is on its trail and will capture its leaders "at any moment."
In his statement to police, Mendez said that he was dedicated "to agriculture and also drug trafficking" for La Familia and that he joined the organization at Moreno's invitation.
He said the cartel recruited "kids who didn't use drugs," who were "good, who didn't go around kidnapping and were on a good path."
But La Familia recruits also had to have "enough intelligence to do things well" and when they made mistakes "they would have their ears pulled."
Mendez urged people about to join a drug gang to "work honestly" instead. "There's a lot of good work, as long as you put your heart into it. It's not true you can only get ahead (through crime); there are tons of ways to get ahead by working."
La Familia expanded outside Michoacan to grow its trafficking networks for crystal meth, a booming business due to strong demand in the United States.
According to a suspect detained at a La Familia synthetic drug lab, the organization earned a 200 percent return on its investment in 2009.
Michoacan has been experiencing a wave of drug-related violence blamed on the break-up of La Familia, with Los Caballeros Templarios suspected of 23 killings over the weekend in Michoacan.
A total of 15,270 people were killed in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and nearly 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country's cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006, deploying thousands of army troops and Federal Police officers to drug-war hotspots.