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La Familia leader sought alliance with ex-rivals

Associated Press Modified: June 22, 2011 at 11:45 am •  Published: June 21, 2011

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A cult-like drug cartel that challenged a rival gang by rolling five severed heads onto a disco dance floor in western Mexico was so divided and cash-strapped of late that it sought to form an alliance with that gang, police officials said Wednesday.

La Familia gang leader Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas was looking for support from the Zetas drug gang to fight splinter cells within his own organization, said Federal Police anti-narcotics chief Ramon Pequeno.

Mendez Vargas, alias El Chango, or The Monkey, was arrested Tuesday in the central state of Aguascalientes, where he was hiding. He was paraded before reporters in Mexico City on Wednesday. He is also wanted in the U.S. for drug-related crimes, Federal Police commissioner Facundo Rosas said at a news conference but didn't elaborate.

Mendez Vargas worked for the Gulf cartel in the western state of Michoacan before he and other drug traffickers defected to form the rival La Familia cartel, which began a bloody battle for control of the state in 2006.

The gang was facing so many financial problems recently that Mendez Vargas couldn't even pay the monthly salaries of some of his gang members, said Rosas, adding that La Familia "has been decisively weakened."

With the death of La Familia founder and leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez in December, Mendez Vargas was the last remaining head of the criminal group, federal security spokesman Alejandro Poire said.

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