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Column 030915 Wall

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mexico Nabs the Leader of Michoacan's 'Caballeros Templarios'

By Allan Wall

Servando Gomez Martinez, also known as “La Tuta,” was captured by Mexican federal police on February 27th, 2015, in Michoacan’s capital city Morelia, with no shots being fired.  Agents had been gathering intelligence on Gomez for months.

Gomez was the leader of a cult-like drug cartel, based in Michoacan state in southern Mexico, called Los Caballeros Templarios Guardia Michoacana, the “Knights Templar Michoacan Guard.”   

The Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) of Michoacan state named themselves after one of the most famous military units in history.  The medieval Knights Templar have exercised a fascination to the present day and are grist for the mill of various conspiracy theories.

The Michoacan “Knights Templar” originated from a previous drug cartel known as La Familia Michoacana.  La Familia was organized as a religious cult and even claimed its killings were “divine justice.”  La Familia, and its successor group the Caballeros Templarios, have been ruthless but not without some support among some elements of the state’s population.

In 2010, La Familia engaged federal authorities in a massive two-city battle in which its leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was believed to have been killed.  In reality, he was alive and had gone underground.

Together with one faction of La Familia leadership, including Servando Gomez, the supposedly dead Moreno Gonzalez formed a new organization called “Los Caballeros Templarios.”  

By 2011 the other faction, still called La Familia, had been destroyed.   

Enemies of the Michoacan-based Caballeros Templarios have included the government, the Zetas, the Jalisco New Generation cartel, and local self-defense militias.

Criminal enterprises of the Caballeros Templarios have included the methamphetamine trade, extortion and the sale of illegally-mined iron ore to China.

The group presents itself as a protector of the people and has been ruthless in its killings of those who don’t share its vision.

In 2012, before a papal visit to Guanajuato state, the group put up banners on bridges in that state which read “The Caballeros Templarios will not partake in any warlike acts, we are not killers, welcome Pope.”

Not to be outdone, the rival Jalisco New Generation Cartel also put up similar banners.

Pause for a moment to reflect on the bizarre nature of such a use of banners, in which rival drug cartels compete with each other to welcome the Pope to Mexico!

Servando Gomez Martinez was formerly a schoolteacher, later a small-time marijuana dealer, and later one of the leaders of La Familia, in charge of weapons acquisitions and preventing police from interfering with operations.  In 2009, he was responsible for the killing of 12 federal police officers.

As a Caballeros Templarios leader, and unlike most cartel leaders, Gomez sought publicity, holding forth in various interviews and videos to defend himself and his organization.

In one video monologue Gomez Martinez sits in front of the statue of a medieval knight, a portrait of Che Guevara and a Mexican flag, and calls his group a “necessary evil.”  The Caballeros Templarios, he says, are “not a cartel, nor any kind of organized criminal group,” but rather “a brotherhood, founded by a set of statutes and codes,” even holding up a copy of the group’s rule book.

The only function of the Caballeros Templarios, says Gomez, “is to help the people, preserve [the] state … and keep [Mexico] free of people causing terror … [and to] live in peace.”  The leader called upon then-President Felipe Calderon and other cartels to join together against the Zetas.

In March of 2014, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez really was killed, so for the past year Servando Gomez Martinez has been the main man of the Caballeros Templarios.

Servando Gomez had said he’d rather die than be captured, but he was captured without a shot on February 27th, 2015, along with his brother Flavio and eight others.

Servando Gomez Martinez is currently housed at Mexico’s Federal Social Readaptation Center Number 1 “Altiplano,” a maximum security prison at Almoloya, where many other infamous prisoners reside.

What of the future of the Caballeros Templarios?  

It’s been speculated that Homero Gonzalez Rodriguez (alias El Gallito, the Little Rooster), a cousin of former and finally deceased leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, is the group's new leader.

However, General Pedro Felipe Gurrola Ramirez, military commander responsible for Michoacan security, says that the group has been 90% dismantled and its leaders are scattered in other states. 

So are the Caballeros Templarios done for or not?  And if they are, what other forces are moving in to fill the power vacuum?

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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