In a much-needed win for embattled President Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexican authorities have captured the country’s most wanted drug lord.
Servando “La Tuta” Gomez was captured by police during an overnight raid on February 27, Reuters reports. Gomez, the most wanted drug lord still at large in Mexico, was the enigmatic yet outspoken leader of the Knights Templar, a drug-trafficking organisation based in the state of Michoacan.
While on the loose, Gomez would often give interviews to media organisations or take to YouTube to post videos lambasting the Mexican state for corruption while defending his own organisation.
“Our only function is to help the people, preserve our state, and preserve our country from people causing terror,” Gomez said in one of his videos according to a Reuters translation.
The Knights Templar are a relatively new group, and were formed in 2010 by Servando Gomez Martinez, The Telegraph reports. Martinez was formerly a high-ranking member of the La Familia Michoacana, but he left the now-almost extinct organisation after its leader was killed in 2011.
As a splinter group of La Familia, the Knights Templar shares many of the earlier group’s characteristics. They both model themselves as a “self-defence” movement against other cartels on behalf of the indigenous population of Michoacan state, notes Insight Crime. But the Knights Templar went even further than their predecessors in making use of ritualistic killings and the dismemberment of rivals in an effort to dissuade resistance — all while claiming that they were protecting Michoacan from the corrosive effects of other cartels and Mexican government corruption.
The Knights Templar are heavily involved in the cocaine and methamphetamine trade, although they must work alongside rival cartels since the organisation does not control any locations on the Mexican border, Insight Crime notes. The Knights Templar are also heavily involved in extortion and kidnapping. The organisation has deeply embedded itself in communities throughout the Mexican state, which is only about 170 miles from Mexico City.
However, ABCreportsthat the Knights Templar’s brutal methods have backfired on the group. A popular vigilante revolt — sanctioned by the Mexican authorities — effectively pushed the group from areas across the state. Rival cartels joined in the effort, eager for a chance to help eliminate one of their opponents.
Now, with Gomez captured, the Knights Templar are temporarily weakened and likely to face further backlash from the citizens of Michoacan. However, as the history of La Familia Michoacana demonstrates, an even more ruthless drug lord than Gomez may step in and take advantage of the power vacuum that Gomez’s capture will likely create.
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