The Mexican government vowed never to cut deals with drug traffickers on Wednesday, after a man claiming to be the leader of a violent cartel called in to a television station to suggest a pact.
A man who identified himself as drug cartel leader Servando "La Tuta" Gomez called into a local television program in the western state of Michoacan early Wednesday to say his gang is only responding to attacks by police on cartel members' family and friends.
"What we want is peace and tranquility," the man said in a call to the CB Television station in Michoacan. "We want to achieve a national pact."
"We want the president, Mr. Felipe Calderon, to know that we are not his enemies, that we value him, that we are conscientious people," the caller said.
Officials have named Gomez as the leader of the La Familia cartel who ordered a wave of attacks on federal police this week in which 18 federal agents and two soldiers were killed.
While neither Michoacan nor federal officials would comment on whether the call appeared genuine or whether the caller was indeed Gomez, the government quickly presented a formal statement ruling out any such deals.
"The federal government does not ever dialogue, does not negotiate, does not reach deals with any criminal organization," Gomez Mont said. "There is no other alternative for their members but to submit to the law."
The caller issued a rambling defense of the La Familia gang's actions, saying federal police and prosecutors "come and fabricate guilty charges, they are picking innocent people in Michoacan state."
Federal police have arrested and charged eight mayors in Michoacan for aiding the drug cartel, and have arrested some leading cartel figures at events like baptism parties along with their relatives. The arrest of another gang leader earlier this week apparently set off the reprisal attacks, but the caller bitterly complained about the arrests of gang members' relatives. Gomez Mont denied traffickers' families were being targeted, saying "authorities act against those people who are arrested and put on trial because of their actions, not because of their family ties."
The caller said the La Familia had rules and standards, like kidnapping only politically connected people and "those who refuse to pay." He acknowledged that "we know our work is disliked by the public."
But Gomez Mont said "the criminal groups that the Mexican government are fighting are made up of criminal cowards without scruples" who "try to mask or justify their acts with all sorts of justifications."
The violence in Michoacan has become so bad that on Wednesday, the US Embassy issued a Warden Message advising US citizens about attacks in the state and warning them to avoid large crowds.