Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Knights Templar - Caballeros Templarios

Crusaders of Meth: Mexico's Deadly Knights Templar
The Knights Templar cartel (Spanish: Caballeros Templarios) is a Mexican criminal organization and an offshoot of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Michoacán.

Various objects seized by the police in the Mexican state of Michoacan, revealed that the mysterious 'Knights Templar" drug cartel is more bizarre than most people imagine.

There were four hooded tunics, with a red cross, a metal helmet, and a pamphlet or Templar rule book. This drug cartel claims to draw inspiration from the medieval Christian warriors who fought to protect Jerusalem and the Holy Grail.

The rules in the modern day 'templar bible' call for observance of 'gentleman' like behaviour and respect for women – but also state that any disclosure of knights templar activities will result in the death of the person and his whole family, and confiscation by the cartel of the snitch’s property.

The cartel is like a secret society.

After the death of Nazario Moreno González, leader of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, the other cartel co-founders, Enrique Plancarte Solís and Servando Gómez Martínez, formed an offshoot of La Familia calling itself Caballeros Templarios (or Knights Templar). Dionicio Loya Plancarte would also join.

The Knights were purportedly headed by an old lieutenant of Moreno's, Servando Gómez (now arrested), a former schoolteacher from Michoacán's rugged hills, where meth labs abound like hillbilly stills. Mexican police files show that both Moreno and Gómez converted to Evangelical Christianity when they were migrants in the U.S. in the 1990s. Returning to Mexico, they found that religious discipline was a useful tool to keep criminal troops in line.

Like La Familia, the Knights claim to be pious and patriotic protectors of the Michoacán community even as they traffic and murder. When they first announced themselves last spring, they hung more than 40 narcomanteles, or drug-cartel banners, across the state with a message promising security. "Our commitment is to safeguard order, avoid robberies, kidnapping, extortion, and to shield the state from rival organizations," they said. A week later, their first victim was hanged from an overpass with a note claiming that he was a kidnapper.

The Mexican Templars have an initiation ritual, which apparently includes dressing up like knights from the Middle Ages, and performing blood pacts.

The cartel recruits drug users and enrolls them in the organisation's rehabilitation centers; the process is closely monitored and has a strong religious component.

The double standard is striking: the Templars can not take drugs, and yet they run one of the biggest methamphetamines traffic corridors to the United States.

The Knights Templar appear to be successfully usurping La Familia's turf. As a result, Mexican army and police commanders have promised to take the new group down with the same energy they summoned to destroy La Familia. But it's unlikely that the Knights will go quietly due to the cartel's structure, wealth, and size. It is perhaps the second most notorious Mexican cartel in terms of killing methods, the most vicious one, the 'Zetas', is a group formed by Mexican army special forces in the 90s.

The cartel's armed wing is called La Resistencia. The Knights Templar cartel indoctrinate its operatives to "fight and die" for what they call "social justice".