"The narcotics wars in Mexico have increased in scope and intensity beginning with President Felipe Caldéron's December 2006 de facto declaration of war against the cartels and gangs. The deployment of Mexican military forces in counterorganized crime and stability and support roles directly responded to the loss of the country's control within many regions--identified as areas of impunity--of the country. Since this conflict began, over 45,000 people have died in the fighting, and the areas of impunity have grown to include wide swaths of territory constituting hundreds of locales now under control of the cartels. The criminal insurgencies waged by the cartels and gangs, centered on a strategy of securing nongovernmental interference with their illicit narcotics and other criminal economic activities, have received much attention and debate. Far less has focused on some of the darker spiritualistic parts of the drug wars. One component entails the rise of the cartel and gang narcocultura (drug culture) variant of the Cult of Santa Muerte (literally translated as 'Holy Death'). This variant of the cult promotes greater levels of criminality than the more mainstream and older forms of Santa Muerte worship. Sometimes it can be so extreme that it condones morally corrupt behaviors--what many people would consider as resulting from an evil value system that rewards personal gain above all else, promoting the intentional pain and suffering of others, and, even, viewing killing as a pleasurable activity. While addressing the rise of such dark spirituality requires a balanced perspective (e.g., avoiding a repeat of the Satanism scare of the 1980s), enough ritualistic behaviors, including killings, have occurred in Mexico to leave open the possibility that a spiritual insurgency component of the narcotics wars now exists. Not all of the narcotics leaders, their foot soldiers, and assassins have remained religious or, alternatively, embraced secularism. But, evidence suggests that the numbers of defections to the cults that worship a perverted Christian god (e.g., La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios) and the various unsanctioned saints (e.g., Jesús Malverde, Juan Soldado, and Santa Muerte) have grown for years."
Federal Bureau of Investigation: http://www.fbi.gov/