MEXICO CITY — One of Mexico's major narcotics gangs reportedly offered Wednesday to disband if the government would intensify security in the state of Michoacan, the cradle of its drug empire, and keep rival drug gangs out.
The offer came in a series of cloth banners and printed flyers in Michoacan state early in the day. Their authenticity couldn't be determined.
None of Mexico's major drug cartels has ever made such an offer. Since gangsters don't often give up their lucrative enterprises, the statement by the Michoacan Family, a cartel known for religious zeal, beheadings and tentacles as far as California's Central Valley, was met with skepticism.
The federal attorney general's office dismissed the offer. The government "cannot make deals with criminals," spokesman Ricardo Najera said.
The cloth banners hung from bridges in the cities of Maravatio and Ciudad Hidalgo, and flyers appeared across the state along Mexico's central Pacific coast.
The author of the 500-word statement lashed out at the central government, playing off intense regional loyalties that often make Michoacan natives suspicious of federal authority.
Federal agents, it said, are guilty of "numerous abuses" and have "broken into and looted homes, murdered and abused men and women and invented illegal judicial pretexts . . . to fill prisons with innocent people making up charges against them."
Even so, if the federal government "takes control of the state with strength and fortitude," the group said it would disband and return to civilian life.
"If the government accepts this pledge publicly and carries it out, the Michoacan Family will disband so that it can no longer serve as the motive for federal authorities in abusing the human rights of Michoacan residents," it said.
Michoacan Gov. Leonel Godoy, whose brother, a federal deputy, is fighting charges that he's linked to drug traffickers, declined to say what was behind the reported offer.
"I don't speculate about speculations," Godoy said.
The narcotics gang emerged in its present form in 2005, becoming known as "meth warriors" for their vast production of methamphetamines but also smuggling marijuana, cocaine and heroin to the U.S.
La Familia, as it's known in Mexico, recruits heavily among drug users in rehabilitation centers, taking them to remote training camps where they receive cult-like indoctrination with a strong religious element.
Taking a cue from Islamic terrorists, La Familia members began the practice in 2006 of beheading rivals from other drug gangs. They also have ambushed police convoys, killing 10 federal officers in one attack in June.
A drug threat assessment released the same month by law enforcement groups in California's Central Valley said "nearly 90 percent of the illegal migrants tending to marijuana growing sites in California come from Michoacan."
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