Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Mystery of Knights Templar

By ACI for Borderland Beat
In December 2010 the streets of Michoacan were set ablaze, burning vehicles blocked the highways.  Black smoke could be seen from miles away, it was a war zone. The smell of burnt tires and gun powder permeated the air.  As bullets ricochet off the pavement, screams of panic could be heard as helicopters flew overhead.  Out numbered and out gunned the criminals began to vanish into the hills surrounding Apatzingan, taking their dead with them.  It would go down as one of the fiercest battles the drug war had seen, lasting several days.  This was the to be the last stand of the once mighty La Familia Cartel and their leader Nazario Moreno Gonzalez,  or was it?
The Intellectual Author
Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, the intellectual and spiritual leader of La Familila Michoacana was supposedly wounded during this fire fight.  But his body was never recovered.  It was suspected by the authorities that the reason the gunmen fought so fiercely was to protect someone of great importance.  It was widely assumed  that this person was none other than Nazario Moreno Gonzalez.  To Calderon this was to be a huge his success; a validation of his crusade against the cartels, with or without a body.  To claim with such certainty, that the leader of the feared La Familia was in fact dead without a body was strange, considering the prominence of El Chayo.  The people of Apatzingan mourned his death but none fully believed he actually died.  The rumor of a man who had taken advantage of the assumption of government begun.

Banner Claiming Knight Templar's Replacement of LFM

The Missing Body
Though a body was never found, one of El Chayo's most loyal lieutenants Servando Gomez Martinez, also know as La Tuta, sent a recording into Televisa announcing Nazario Moreno Gonzalez's death.  This is interesting to note as one would not expect a cartel to come out and announce the death of their own leader, much less to do it in such an elaborate fashion.  At the time the image of LFM was beginning to suffer greatly.  The heat they were receiving from the Federal Government was too much for the organization to withstand.  It would make sense for them to distance themselves from La Familia brand.  Before the end of December 2010 the Knights Templar would appear and Calderon had the one the feather in the cap he had always wanted, La familia disbanded.  But did they dismantle La Familia, or was this a impressive maneuver from the leadership to rid themselves of all the heat LFM had been receiving.

To be Made an Example Of
To understand why El Chayo may still be alive one must look at the history of La Familia Michoacana.  LFM started out as a faction of Los Zetas who went rouge.  They had long standing ties with both Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, and received training from Los Zetas.  Of all the cartels, President Calderon wanted La Familia most of all.  It was personal, La Familia came from the state where he was born, and they were openly provoking the federal authorities, killing several Federal Police.  Furthermore, no other state represented how far the narcos had be able to infiltrate the local institutions better than Michoacan.  Some said La Familia were able to put in place a shadow government, one which paralleled the state.  So Calderon's War was to begin here.  

La Familia which had arose from an armed wing of the Gulf Cartel was tasked with securing the drug trade in Michoacan.  They were to take over territory controlled then by the Milenio Cartel.  The Milenio Cartel had been operating in the state for some time and were the dominate organization in area, they were major methamphetamine producers.  In what could only be called a Mexican twist of fate, Milienio would later became allied with Los Zetas who would later become the biggest rivals of La Familia.

The Bait and Switch
Nazario Moreno Gonzalez was most likely wounded that day in Apatzingan, there has been little to discount this.  But did he survive?  One must consider the circumstantial evidence of the claim.  There was certainly major discord after the battle which can only be interpreted as a void in leadership, but did this mean his death?  Or was this the work of a man who took advantage of a governments eagerness to see him and his Cartel eliminated.  If he in fact survive then this would be one of the most intriguing tales from one of the most eccentric cartels in history.

The Rumors
The rumor that El Chayo is alive has been around since his death but it had some weight added to it recently.  The most damning evidence came in March of this year.  A message was posted online from CJNG targeting the Knight Templar.  In the video they clearly state they know El Chayo is still alive.  It makes no sense for them to make this accusation if it has no merit.  There would be nothing to gain from this claim but perhaps to promote confusion but this seems unlikely.  Given the similarities between the Knights Templar's code of conduct and La Familia's there are striking parallels.  It is also worth noting how solidified the Knights Templar became after the death of  Nazario Moreno Gonzalez.  While La Familia collapsed rapidly, leaving only isolated cells, leaderless across the country, while the Knights Templar seemed surprisingly organized.

On Their Own
With this new video, it appears that the Knights Templar have overplayed their hand.  It appears that Sinaloa, a long time ally has turned against them.  For what reason still remains unclear, but it is thought this might have to do with the Knights Templar encroaching on Sinaloa's territory.  This leaves the Gulf Cartel as CT's only ally left.  There is a lot of history between Enrique Plancarte of the Knights Templar and Juan Reyes Mejía González of the Gulf Cartel.  This relationship appears to have remained in tact.  The Knights Templar however have seemed to have lost ground in their abilities to produce methamphetamine, this can be assumed due to the increase in extortion and kidnappings attributed to the group.  In addition, the Knights Templar have seen several of their distribution networks in the US dismantled.  This has left the Cartel isolated from the narcotic trade.  If they can re-establish themselves as significant producers and exporters of methamphetamine they may one day return to power.  As for now the Cartel seems to be increasing less prominent in the scope of Mexico's Drug War.  So will it ever become clear the true fate of El Chayo and his role within the Knights Templar, that remains to be seen but as with most things in this war, anything is possible.


  1. Great story, so they dont know what happened to Chayo?

  2. He did infact live, fortunately he is now officially dead!