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La Familia Grows, Mexico's Drug War Flails

Friday, Aug. 14, 2009

MEXICO CITY -- Francisco Morelos Borja, the Michoacan president of the governing National Action Party (PAN) shifted from side to side, nervously looking at his aides and then the door of the nondescript restaurant in the town of Quiroga. "If you don't open the door to [the drug traffickers], no problem. The difficulty comes when you open the door and have relations with them," he said during our interview back in November 2007. "I can only make sure [members of the PAN] don't open the door. . . . Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Nearly two years on, and almost three years into Mexico's war on drugs, Morelos Borja's comments resonate loudly. In December 2006, days after President Felipe Calderon took office, Michoacan became the first front in a military-led assault on the nation's drug cartels. By the end of 2007, the operation had been lauded as a success: Violent homicides were down, and the Army was making a record number of arrests. But by mid-2008, the victory cries had subsided. Homicides were up again, and a new group known as La Familia had risen to prominence -- in spite of the Army's constant presence. La Familia had infilitrated a good portion of Michoacan's local governments, the authorities said, proving that for the most part, Morelos Borja and his counterparts from all political parties just couldn't keep those doors shut. ...

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