Monkey in tactical vest found dead after Mexican cartel shootout

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A raspy voice paired with the gentle strums of a guitar narrate the pain of a life cut short. Like other narcocorridos — a genre of folk songs glorifying drug kingpins — the lyrics touch on a violent end: “There’s witnesses to how he was executed,” the ballad proclaims.

But unlike other narcocorridos, this one is a testament to the death of a tactical-vest-wearing spider monkey in a custom camo jacket.

The monkey — referred to online as “El Chango,” or “the primate” in Spanish, and also known as the Sicario monkey — was the pet of a member of La Familia Michoacana, a notorious cartel in Mexico. It and its apparent owner were killed June 14 during a standoff between state security forces and the organized criminal group in Texcaltitlán, according to the State of Mexico Attorney General’s Office.

La Familia Michoacana emerged in the 1980s after splitting up from the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s oldest criminal organizations. The group, regarded as one of the country’s top meth exporters, was known for its members’ overtly brutal tactics. In 2006, for example, they tossed five severed heads onto a nightclub’s dance floor with the message “Know that this is divine justice.”

While La Familia has been in decline following its leader’s 2014 death and infighting, it’s still engaged in violent acts, authorities say. In March 2021, prosecutors allege, the group was responsible for an ambush that killed over a dozen officers, El País reported.

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After last week’s shooting rampage — which left 11 dead, three injured and seven arrested by police — photos of the bloody scene began circulating online. In a country mired in a deepening crisis of violence that has displaced thousands, images of bodies peppered by bullets and scores of military-grade weapons seized by authorities are nothing new. Yet one provoked a social media frenzy: the monkey’s body, clad with his tiny vest, lying on top of a dead man’s chest in an apparent hug.

For some, it was the contrast of a cute monkey decked in narco attire. For others, it was outrage that an endangered species was being kept as a pet. But mostly, it was the sense that an innocent being had been killed in crossfire that prompted myriad tributes, newspaper front pages and even a song.

Drug lord Pablo Escobar smuggled hippos into Colombia. Officials are now sterilizing the invasive species.

The ballad puts El Chango among the ranks of notable narcos — such as the Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — whose exploits have long been chronicled through music.

“It’s such a short life and it wasn’t the monkey’s turn to die,” say the lyrics of the composition shared widely on Twitter. “Someone stole his story because he came here to triumph and shine in so many things.”

The little guy, the song laments, is “on his way to heaven, but he left us a legacy.”

It’s unclear what that legacy is, but El Chango appears to be the first animal memorialized in a narcocorrido — a style of music usually reserved for stories of drug lords and their betrayals, arrests and standoffs.

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