Surviving Suspects of Cartel Shootout May Face Trafficking Charge for Death of Spider Monkey Wearing a Bulletproof Vest

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In a bizarre report, Mexican officials have confirmed the authenticity of photos shown here from a shootout between police and speculated members of the Mexican cartel La Familia Michoacana depicting a small spider monkey, deceased and donning a bulletproof vest and diaper. The photograph quickly began circulating on social media, and authorities have confirmed the photographed animal was among several found dead following a shootout between police and suspected cartel members. [i]
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Authorities have also confirmed that survivors of the shootout are likely to face animal trafficking charges in relation to the spider monkey's untimely demise. The death of the bulletproof vest-wearing monkey comes less than a week after officials seized a tiger in nearby Tecuala. As possession of wild animals seems common among suspected cartel members, authorities advised that a veterinarian will perform an autopsy to determine the spider monkey's cause of death. [ii]
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Further, authorities also acknowledged that there had been an increase in primate trafficking with near-deadly results. One example was a man recently seriously wounded by a tiger in an area known for extortion protection payments such as the ones faced by El Salvadorians. [iii]

Although Mexican officials confirmed the death of the small spider monkey, it is unclear whether the spider monkey died from injuries sustained during the shootout or other causes. Mexico faces similar issues relating to cartel crime as El Salvador. New gang crackdown measures have now been implemented in El Salvador in an effort to, at minimum, protect innocent individuals from becoming financial victims of the cartel by being forced to pay weekly increased extortion payments or face penalties, as shown in the YouTube video below. [iv]

Although bizarre, the resurfacing of the La Familia Michoacana cartel as prominent resurfaces memories of the nearly decades-old arrest and capture of Jesus Mendez Vargas AKA 'El Chango' (The Monkey), then-leader of the La Familia Michoacana cartel. Despite the arrest of their apparent leader, the cartel continued to thrive. The La Familia Michoacana cartel is believed to be one of the deadliest known drug cartels. [v]

The recent shootout illustrates the La Familia Michoacana cartel's continued presence while highlighting a lifestyle hidden from most. Cartel members are rumored to live extravagant lifestyles often, and what better way to flaunt illegitimately gained wealth than with a child-sized, bulletproof vest-wearing spider monkey. Such extravaganza is not uncommon amongst cartel members, as illustrated in the following video, which dives into the lifestyles of infamous cartel members. [vi]

For a more in-depth view of the conflict at the epicenter of Mexico's violence and the continued effect, view the video below on Michoacan, a hot spot for Mexico's violence.

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Charnell Gilchrist

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[i] Catherine Stoddard, Monkey in bulletproof vest found among the dead after shootout with Mexican police, (Jun 20, 2022)

[ii] Id.

[iii] Yucatan Times, Photo of monkey wearing bulletproof vest goes viral on social networks, (Jun. 19, 2022)

[iv] Id.

[v] AP Archive, Police arrest 'The Monkey,' leader of the cult-like La Familia cartel, (Jul 30, 2015)

[vi] 9 Figure Life, Billionaire Lifestyle of Mexican Cartels in 2022, (Feb. 3, 2022)

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Currently pursuing a Juris Doctor at Western State College of Law, freelance writer Charnell Gilchrist, a North Carolina native, now spends her free time writing in sunny Aliso Viejo, CA.

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