Oddly Enough

Cartel tells smugglers to live "clean" life

Bundles of the estimated 4,000 pounds of confiscated marijuana line the Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department evidence room in Edinburg, Texas April 14, 2009. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A cartel engaged in Mexico’s deadly drug wars has told its members to avoid heavy drinking and using narcotics and live a clean family life as it tries to build a well-run criminal organization, police say.

Rafael Cedeno, a leader of “The Family” cartel based in the western state of Michoacan, told police after he was arrested at the weekend he had trained several thousand cartel members with courses in ethics and personal improvement.

“The indoctrination of this group consisted of courses they considered to be for personal improvement, values, ethical and moral principles of the criminal gang. The objective was for the subordinates to avoid drugs, hard drinking and maintain family unity,” the federal police said in a statement.

Cedeno, 47, was picked up at a family baptism on Saturday with 43 others after a raid by police in helicopters. Accusations against him include ordering the murder of rivals and running prostitution rings of young girls.

About 6,300 people died in the bitter war between Mexico’s drug cartels last year. The conflict has spilled over the border into the United States, worrying President Barack Obama.

The training courses show the level of organization of Mexico’s cartels, well-armed groups which often control territory and take on federal police and the army.

The point of training was “to have better motivational and emotional control over the members,” the statement said. “The Family” has previously portrayed itself as a local organization protecting Michoacan residents from outside drug smugglers, many of whom frequently indulge in drugs or drink.

The group, a splinter group from “The Gulf” cartel, now fights its former allies for control of territory in Michoacan, often leaving gruesome messages next to decapitated heads.

On a visit to Mexico last week Obama voiced strong support for President Felipe Calderon, who sent tens of thousands of troops and federal police to fight the cartels in late 2006.

Reporting by Mica Rosenberg and Anahi Rama; Editing by David Storey