By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
A DEA intelligence chief and a DEA high-level official were among those who erroneously reported the death in 2010 of Mexican drug kingpin Nazario "Chayo" Moreno Gonzalez, according to two 2011 DEA reports prepared for U.S. Congressional committees.
In one of the DEA reports, the DEA took part of the credit for Moreno's alleged takedown in 2010.
Mexican officials announced in 2010 that Moreno, a founder of the La Familia Michoacana and of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartels, was killed Dec. 8, 2010 in a gun battle between Mexican federal forces and Familia Michoacana operatives in Holanda, Michoacán. Although Moreno's body was not recovered, the Mexican federal authorities under President Felipe Calderon felt confidant that the drug-trafficker was dead. Michoacán is Calderon's home state.
This past Sunday (March 9), Mexican officials announced that Moreno was killed in a shootout with Mexican soldiers and navy marines in a mountainous region of Timbuscatio, Michoacán, where Moreno was hiding. This time, officials said, they had Moreno's body and confirmed his identity through fingerprints and other methods.
Thomas M. Harrigan, assistant administrator and chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reported Moreno's death in written testimony dated 2011.
"In another blow to La Familia, on December 8, 2010, the SSP/SIU and GOPES, in conjunction with the DEA Mexico City Country Office (CO), mounted an operation against La Familia in Holanda, Michoacan, Mexico, which resulted in the death of CPOT Nazario Moreno-Gonzalez, a.k.a., "Chayo,"' according to the March 31, 2011 statement by Thomas M. Harrigan, DEA assistant administrator and chief of operations.
"Moreno-Gonzalez was one of two principal leaders of the La Familia Cartel, and he was widely considered the intellectual and spiritual leader of the organization," Harrigan said in his report.
CPOT stands for Consolidated Priority Organizational Target, GOPES for the Mexican Army Special Operations Group, and the SSP was the Secretariat of Public Security, which was led by Genaro Garcia Luna, a Mexican cabinet level director. President Enrique Pena Nieto replaced the SSP with a new national security commission.
The report "The U.S. Homeland Security Role in the Mexican War Against Drug Cartels" was prepared for the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations and Management Committee on Homeland Security.
U.S. and Mexican drug investigators said that Moreno formed part of the group that broke away from La Familia Michoacana and created the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), a new drug cartel with religious overtones.
The second time a DEA official reported Moreno's death was on Oct. 4, 2011, in a report titled "Is Merida Antiquated? Part Two: Updating U.S. Policy to Counter Threats of Insurgency and Narco-Terrorism," which was prepared for the U.S. Western Hemisphere Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs and the Oversight, Investigations, and the Management Subcommittee/Committee on Homeland Security.
"The Government of Mexico has had several high-level successes against LFM (La Familia Michoacana), including the presumed December 2010 death of co-leader Nazario Moreno-Gonzalez," according to the report presented by Rodney G. Benson, DEA assistant administrator and chief of intelligence.
During Televisa's "Tercer Grado" (Third Degree) news talk show, which aired on television in El Paso at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, news producer Denise Maerker said that Mexican kept hearing from sources that Moreno was alive, while officials treated the persistent allegations as rumors.
The DEA headquarters in Washington, D.C., had no comment, and referred all questions related to the mistaken death report to Mexico's government.