“La Familia” Founder Carlos Rosales Mendoza Quietly Released from Prison

Danny Benavides
June 10, 2014


Carlos Alberto Rosales Mendoza, alias "El Tisico"

Very old photos of Carlos Alberto Rosales Mendoza, alias “El Tisico”

On May 22, 2014, Carlos Rosales Mendoza (alias “El Tísico“) was quietly released from the Puente Grande Prison near Guadalajara, Jalisco. According to press reports, Rosales Mendoza had completed serving a 10-year sentence for involvement in organized crime, drug-trafficking, possession of illegal firearms, and bribery.

What makes this event especially worrisome is Rosales Mendoza’s narco-resumé. Against the backdrop of revent developments (good and bad) in the states of Michoacan and Tamaulipas, an ominous picture emerges.

To help explain a bit of this, I’ve thought it best to go ahead and publish an excerpt of a longer work in progress; I’ve been reading, taking notes, and putting together a piece which I hope can offer a more complete depiction of the Autodefensas story in Michoacan (what spurred their creation, how have they performed, and what happens next?), but I don’t feel it is quite done yet.

So, at any rate, here’s a snippet of what I’ve drafted pertaining to Carlos Rosales Mendoza. This should adequately emphasize the importance of his release, and fill the void that a lot of press outlets leave by ignoring a story like this.

A Brief History of La Familia Michoacana

The first elements of La Familia Michoacana — then called La Empresa (“The Enterprise”) — were founded in the 1980s by Carlos Alberto Rosales Mendoza (alias “El Tísico“). During this period, La Familia Michoacana and the Milenio Cartel (also known as Cártel de los Valencia, named after the cousins who founded it) competed for larger shares of the drug trafficking through Michoacán. This rivalry instigated the metastasizing of La Familia in both sheer numbers as well as strength.

In 2000, Rosales Mendoza officially severed ties with Armando Valencia Cornelio of the Milenio Cartel and switched alliances to the Gulf Cartel, leveraging that support in order to push the Milenio Cartel out and to dominate the trafficking corridor. During this period, members of La Familia Michoacana trained with Los Zetas (then, still the paramilitary death squad under the employ of the Gulf Cartel) in urban and rural warfare tactics and techniques. The military mindset of Los Zetas instilled a sick discipline among La Familia’s assassins, and the groups shared a gruesome brutality that made each notorious. The Gulf Cartel was amid upheaval, but largely controlled by ruthless druglord Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, a trusted associate of Rosales Mendoza.

When Cárdenas Guillén was arrested in March of 2003, Rosales Mendoza — serving a dual role as a leader of La Familia Michoacana and chief lieutenant for the Gulf Cartel — assembled a team of 40 to 50 commandos from the ranks of La Familia and Los Zetas to train for the prison break of his associate from La Palma Prison (now known as Altiplano). But on October 24, 2004,  as Rosales Mendoza was formulating this jailbreak plot, he was arrested as the target of an operation by Mexican Special Forces (Grupo Aeromóvil de Fuerzas Especiales, or GAFE).

With Rosales Mendoza behind bars, leadership of La Familia Michoacana was assumed by remaining founders Nazario Moreno González (known by aliases “El Chayo,” “El Doctor,” and “El Más Loco“) and José de Jesús Méndez Vargas (alias “El Chango“).  Other leaders of the cartel included Servando Gómez Martínez (aliases “La Tuta” and “El Profe“) and Enrique Plancarte Solís (aliases “El Kike” and “La Chiva“), who function mostly as communications and operations chiefs, respectively.

Enter Los Caballeros Templarios

Carlos Rosales Mendoza may have been one of the key inspirations for the pseudo-spiritual approach adopted early on by Nazario Moreno González and La Familia Michoacana, but the apocryphal death of “El Más Loco“  in December of 2010 allowed for a convenient abandonment of elements of La Familia branded as betrayers for allying with Los Zetas following their split from the Gulf Cartel. This faction of La Familia was further weakened by the arrest of its head Méndez Vargas (“El Chango“) on June 21, 2011.

What remained was a significant and powerful splinter cartel known as Los Caballeros Templarios. At its core, the Templarios were comprised of La Familia leadership (La Tuta, Kike Plancarte, and Chayo Moreno running the operations in secret), and amplified its religious rhetoric to transform itself into a savage narco-cult trafficking meth, extorting the community, raping young girls, harvesting organs from victims, and murdering with impunity.

Fast Forward

Since the rise of Michoacan’s autodefensas, scores of operatives of Los Caballeros Templarios have been killed or captured: El Chayo is dead (for real this time), Kike Plancarte is dead, “El Tio” Plancarte Solis was arrested, but Servando Gómez Martínez (“La Tuta“) remains at large.

The Templarios are on the ropes with La Tuta on the run, and Chango‘s wing of La Familia is miniscule by comparison. The Gulf Cartel today is a total shitstorm of backstabbers and inexperienced narcos. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Cárdenas Guillén was ordering a “total cleansing” of his organization from behind bars, given the takedowns of several Gulf Cartel capos and the subsequent fractious war within its ranks wreaking havoc in the state of Tamaulipas.

So all of this presents some unpleasant possible outcomes, in my opinion. Carlos Rosales Mendoza may well settle back in Michoacan to reconnect with his ex-La Familia cohorts and the remnants of Los Caballeros Templarios. The right networking with Rosales Mendoza back in the picture could be the lifeline that La Tuta was hoping for. This could lead to a prolonged battle with Michoacan’s autodefensas at a time when it is experiencing division, government co-opting, and criminal infiltration. This does not bode well.

Additionally, Rosales Mendoza may tap into the Gulf Cartel faction(s) that maintain mutual respect for Osiel and remain loyal to the Cárdenas family, such as whatever is left of Los Rojos and/or Los Ciclones. It is believed that two relatives of Osiel Cárdenas Guillén are running the latter of those groups, and some speculate that Cárdenas Guillén himself is still commanding certain elements of the Gulf Cartel from behind bars. Reviving an alliance with Rojos/Ciclones could be a game-changer, as these groups have kept a relatively low profile while the rest of the Gulf Cartel cells kill each other. However, with infighting among subgroups of Los Metros, such as Los Jimmys, Los Fresitas, Los Dragones, and this new generation of narco upstarts who appear to reject chains of command, it’s difficult to see any sort of cohesion within the Gulf Cartel anytime soon. Instead, expect purging and consolidation, one way or another.


Related links:

Liberan a Carlos Rosales, fundador de La Familia Michoacana via Luis Felipe Rosiles @ Quadratín

LFM Founder and Chayo’s Mentor, Released from Prison via Chivís Martínez @ Borderland Beat