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Mexico arrests La Familia drug gang figure

MEXICO UNDER SIEGE

Federal police say they have arrested Jose Alfredo Landa Torres, known as 'Skinny,' the regional boss of a gang that dominates western Michoacan. La Familia has become a major trafficker of methamphetamine.

November 30, 2010|By Ken Ellingwood, Los Angeles Times
  • Mexican federal police present suspects Eden Campuzano Sierra, left, and Jose Alfredo Landa Torres, also known as "El Flaco", during a news conference in Mexico City.
Mexican federal police present suspects Eden Campuzano Sierra, left,… (Reuters )

Reporting from Mexico City — Mexican authorities Tuesday said they had arrested a regional boss of La Familia drug gang, which dominates the western state of Michoacan with violence and a cult-like authority.

The trafficking group recently hung banners suggesting a truce with Mexican government forces, but authorities dismissed the move as a ploy and said they wouldn't negotiate anyway.

Federal police said the man arrested Monday, Jose Alfredo Landa Torres, was recently named to head La Familia's operations in the state capital, Morelia. His alleged duties included managing finances, bribing police and overseeing street-level drug sales.

Landa, 37, known as "Skinny," had worked his way up the ranks of La Familia since joining in 2007 as a street-level lookout, or halcon, in the city of Maravatio, federal police said in a statement. Drug gangs frequently employ taxi drivers, street vendors and others to watch for patrols of police or military units.

Authorities said Landa was put in charge of the Morelia zone after his two immediate predecessors were arrested, in 2009 and last August.

A second suspect was arrested with Landa. Police confiscated an AK-47 assault rifle and two handguns.

La Familia, a relative newcomer to Mexico's criminal underworld, has in a few years become a major trafficker and big producer of methamphetamines. Its members, sometimes recruited in drug treatment centers, adhere to a quasi-religious dogma. The group pays off Michoacan officials, beheads rivals and paints itself as a protector of the state's residents.

Last week, La Familia hung a series of banners sprinkled with famous quotations from Mexican historical figures, including the revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata. The group reiterated an earlier cease-fire offer and said it hoped to serve society: "We seek not to conquer, but to convince."

In other developments, authorities in the northern state of Chihuahua said Tuesday that they had unearthed the bodies of 19 men and a woman from a dozen clandestine graves in a rural area near the U.S. border. The Mexican army found the series of graves on Saturday and began digging.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

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