THEY are among the most brutal criminals behind countless killings and episodes of drug-fuelled violence.
View attachment 36787 Many go on to kill again, while some are killed themselves.
But now in Mexico, some of these criminals are seeing the light and "reforming" after supposedly purging the evil spirits which had possessed them.
Father Ernesto Caro claims even hardened criminals are being purged of evil.
The priest, who claims he has purged demons from at least two drug cartel members, said
one murderer and kidnapper found God two years ago and now lives a non-violent life.
Father Caro told the New York Daily News the criminal's specialty was chopping his victims into pieces - while they were still alive.
"He said he smiled while he was doing it. He said he enjoyed it and that he was laughing," the priest and exorcist from the Diocese of Monterrey said.
View attachment 36788 But after four months of weekly visits, Father Caro said he managed to rid the killer of the evil which had been possessing him.
In scenes reminiscent of hit 1973 film The Exorcist, people in this predominantly Catholic country are reportedly turning to rituals such as exorcism as just one weapon against the growing power of the drug cartels.
In a place where cartel members worship Santa Muerte (St Death) for health, wealth and even protection while transporting drugs it may not seem so surprising.
In footage uploaded to YouTube in November last year, BBC reporter Vladimir Hernandez talks to the Mexican priests who claim they can fight evil and drug trafficking through exorcism.
One priest tells Hernandez cartel members regularly attend his services and the Vatican would not like what takes place.
The footage shows people screaming and vomiting on the ground, which one priest claimed was evidence of demonic possession.
According to Amnesty International's The State of the Human Rights report 2013 , more than 60,000 people have been killed and thousands more displaced as a result of drug-related violence since 2006.
The human rights group said the criminal justice system was deeply flawed with 98 per cent of crimes going unpunished.
It also said drug cartels and other criminal gangs were responsible for the vast majority of the killings but often operated in collusion with police and authorities.
While some criminals may prefer dealing with exorcism to fight their demons, residents in crime-riddled towns such as Apatzingan in Michoacan state, are fighting evil with more physical means, with clashes between cartels, vigilantes and security forces turning deadly.
Just days ago, Mexican security forces launched an offensive to take over security in the violence-torn western state, seizing a drug cartel's hideout and clashing with vigilantes who refused to disarm.
A convoy of 200 military and federal police forces rumbled into Apatzingan last Tuesday and disarmed municipal police officers in the city, known as a stronghold of the Knights Templar gang, in Michoacan.
Hours earlier, soldiers arrived in towns held by vigilantes who have battled the cartel for the past year, leading to a confrontation which the civilian militia said killed four people, including a child.
The federal show of force in Michoacan's rural region known as Tierra Caliente, or Hot Country, came a day after the government urged vigilantes to lay down their arms, saying it would take over security.
Photographs Ernesto Maria Caro/Facebook, AFP News Ltd; Santa Muerte, Screengrab/BBC; A church member writhing in pain during a service.
January 20 2014