Although born in Michoacán, Moreno González moved to the United States as a teenager, but fled back into Mexico about a decade later to avoid prosecution for several pending drug trafficking charges. In 2004, the drug boss Carlos Rosales Mendoza was captured, and Moreno González, alongside José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, took control of La Familia Michoacana. Unlike other traditional drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, Moreno González's organization also operated like a religious cult, where its own members were given "bibles" with sayings and conduct guidelines.
Moreno González criminal career came to an end when he was killed in a gunfight on 9 December 2010 in his home state. Gunmen managed to carry out several of the bodies, including his, up the hills.
Moreno González was born in the rural area of Guanajuatillo in Apatzingán, Michoacán on 8 March 1970. There are few details of Moreno González's upbringing, but religion may have played an important role in his early life. As a teenager in the late 1980s, Moreno González migrated illegally to the United States and located in California, where he eventually entered the drug trade, selling marijuana. After some years, he moved to the state of Texas and in 1994 was arrested for drug trafficking charges in McAllen, Texas. Nearly a decade later in 2003, the U.S. federal government charged him with conspiracy to distribute 5 tons of narcotics and issued an arrest warrant. Moreno González then fled back to Mexico.
Although raised Catholic, Moreno González converted to Jehovah's Witness while residing in the United States. In Apatzingán, Moreno González reportedly preached to the poor and always carried a bible with him. Soon, he won the minds and trusts of the locals, and many started to see him as a "Messiah" for preaching religious principles and forming La Familia Michoacana, a drug cartel that posed as a vigilante group. When Carlos Rosales Mendoza was arrested in 2004, Moreno González ascended to the apex of La Familia Michoacana Cartel, a drug trafficking organization based in western Mexico, along with José de Jesús Méndez Vargas. In 2006, La Familia Michoacana broke relations with The Gulf Cartel and The Los Zetas Organization, and Moreno González herald the organization's independence when several of his gunmen tossed five human heads on a discotheque dance floor in Uruapan, Michoacán. Near the severed heads lay a message that read, "La Familia doesn't kill for money, doesn't kill women, doesn't kill innocents. Only those who deserve to die will die."
Los Zetas eventually broke off from The Gulf Cartel in 2010, after serving as the armed wing of the organization for more than a decade. But in opposition to Los Zetas, Moreno González's cartel rejoined with the Gulf Cartel and allied with The Sinaloa Cartel to fight them off. Since then, La Familia Michoacana became one of the fastest-growing cartels in the Mexico's drug war, but stood out for its particularity in promoting "family values" and having a religious agenda, unlike other traditional cartels. Although deeply involved in the methamphetamine business, Moreno González's cartel diversified its criminal agenda by controlling numerous "counterfeiting, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and car dealership" rings in Michoacán and its neighboring states. The criminal organization, during mid 2009, had managed to establish a foothold in about 20 to 30 urban areas across the United States.
Moreno González required his men to carry a "spiritual manual" that he wrote himself and "[contained] pseudo-Christian aphorisms for self-improvement." In his "bible," Moreno González prohibited his men from consuming alcohol or drugs, and stated that he would severely punish those who mistreated women. His writings encouraged the corporal punishment of thieves by beating them and making them walk naked with billboards in the city streets. Moreno González justified drug trafficking by stating that La Familia Michoacana Cartel allegedly regulated the drug trade to prevent exploitation of the people. The book, sometimes known as "The Sayings of the Craziest One", also talks about humility, service, wisdom, brotherhood, courage, and God.
As leader of La Familia Michoacana, Moreno González was in charge of forging alliances with other cartels. Reportedly, he allegedly met with several high-ranking drug lords in Mexico's criminal underworld, including: Luis Fernando Sánchez Arellano of The Tijuana Cartel; Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno of The Sinaloa Cartel; and Antonio Cárdenas Guillen of The Gulf Cartel. In these agreements, the cartels allowed La Familia Michoacana to move drugs freely in their territories in exchange for their support in fighting off rival gangs like Los Zetas. Back in 2008, Moreno González agreed to send armed men to aid Joaquin Guzman Loera and Ismael Zambarda Garcia to fight off rival cartels, which granted him access to the drug corridors in Sinaloa and Sonora. In addition, his friendship with the Gulf Cartel leader Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez allowed him to have access to the northeastern state of Tamaulipas.
In 2009, the Mexican government enacted a list of its 37 most-wanted drug lords and offered a reward $2.2 million reward for information that led to Moreno González's capture. His three partners – José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Servando Gómez Martínez and Dionicio Loya Plancarte – were also on the list.
During his tenure as leader of La Familia Michoacana Cartel, Moreno González reportedly gave out loans to farmers, funded schools and churches, financed drainage projects, and carried out several aid campaigns to help out the disadvantaged in the state of Michoacán. This, along with the manpower of the organization, allowed him get the support of several rural sectors in the state, where many served as informants and collaborators for the cartel.
The support of La Familia Michoacana is "due to its family networks, patronage of local communities and exploitation of citizens' anger at the government."
On 9 December 2010, the Mexican federal police surrounded the village of El Alcalde in Apatzingán, Michoacán with more than 2,000 officers. Reportedly, Moreno González was at a local festival handing out Christmas presents to the villagers when he was tracked down by the authorities.
As the police troops drove into town, gunmen of La Familia Michoacana blocked the entrances with more than 40 burning trucks and cars. The triggermen also surrounded the state capital of Morelia in an attempt to prevent the police from receiving reinforcements. The shootout lasted about two days, and at least 11 deaths were able to be confirmed. During the gun battle, the gunmen managed to carry out the bodies of their fallen comrades up the hills, including the corpse of Moreno González, who was killed gunfight. Since Moreno González's body was never recovered, there have been rumors that he is alive and may still be leading La Familia Michoacana Cartel, but there is no evidence to support this and the Mexican government has denied such claims.
Background and aftermathEdit
The death of Moreno González marked a significant victory for the government of Mexico since the start of the drug war in 2006. La Familia Michoacana Cartel was the focus of the government because their stronghold, Michoacán state, is just about four hours away from the country's capital, Mexico City. In addition, Michoacán is the homestate of president Felipe Calderón, who made it a top priority to pacify the violent-plagued state.
A few days after the slaying, several people carried out a peace march in Apatzingán expressing their support for the cartel with banners that read "Nazario will always live in our hearts," among others. Others protested against the presence of the federal forces in the state, and argued that the federal government – and not the cartels – were responsible for increasing the violence in the country. Through several banners hung on bridges throughout the state of Michoacán, La Familia Michoacana publically announced that they were open to the possibility of creating a "truce" (ceasefire) with the Mexican government throughout December 2010 and January 2011 to allegedly prove that they were not source of the violence. The Mexican authorities "summarily rejected" the agreement.
After Moreno Gonzalez was killed, José de Jesús Méndez Vargas took the lead of La Familia Michoacana. The other cartel leader, Servando Gómez Martínez, fought Méndez Vargas for control of the group and eventually formed the Knights Templar Cartel, a drug cartel and pseudo-religious splitt off group.
After Moreno González's death, Michoacán natives reportedly began to worship him as a saint, "drawing attention to the links between narco-culture and religion." In the region of Apatzingán, people created altars with statues and photos in honor of him. The figurines are often dressed in tunics similar to the Knights Templar, and had prayers calling him Saint Nazario. Reforma newspaper reported that Moreno González had his own prayer: "Oh Lord Almighty, free me from all sins, give me protection through Saint Nazario." These altars are found in the village of Holanda, on the hill of El Cerrito de la Cruz, and in Apatzingán.
Throughout his criminal career, Moreno González attempted to promote La Familia Michoacana as a organization that existed to protect the people in Michoacán, where he carried out several campaigns that implemented curfews, punished drinkers, and attacked The Los Zetas Organization, whom he claimed had corroded the morality of the state and community. The prayers that are now dedicated to Moreno González now refer to him as the "Representative of God," the "Protector of the poorest," and as the "Knight of the towns." Such behavior proves that La Familia Michoacana's religious campaign had an impact in the local area.
The area where the altars are located is reportedly patrolled by Los 12 apóstoles, the security body that allegedly protected Moreno González.
Moreno González enjoyed watching the Godfather Trilogy and the drama film Braveheart.
He went by several nicknames, including but not limited to El Chayo, El Dulce ('The Candy'), El Doctor, and El Más Loco ('The Crazy One').