Knights Templar Post Messages in Michoacan on July 18, 2013

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Ostensibly produced by: Knights Templar (Los Caballeros Templarios)

Target Audience: The public of Michoacan, Mexico

On the morning of Thursday, July 18, 2013, narco-messages were displayed publicly at multiple places in Michoacan, Mexico. They were ostensibly signed by the Knights Templar, which is based in that area. The message also circulated throughout social media, including Notinfomex.info[i] and Historiasdelnarco.com[ii], which reported it as follows:

 

“QUE ESTO SE INTERPRETE DE LA MEJOR MANERA Y CADA QUIEN APLIQUE SU PROPIO CRITERIO. A nuestros hombres y mujeres que viven en nuestro estado de Michoacán, nosotros que formamos la Dirección de LOS CABALLEROS TEMPLARIOS GUARDIA MICHOACANA, hacemos de su conocimiento y les informamos, que debido a los comentarios y críticas de los diferentes sectores de Nuestra Sociedad en favor y en contra de Nuestra Organización, nos disculpamos de la misma, ya que nuestra intención es y será la de servir a Nuestros Conciudadanos y en ningún momento perjudicarlos. Quedan en completa libertad de ejercer y llevar a cabo negocios y transacciones que a su mejor manera convenga. Aquellas personas defraudadoras, extorsionadores, secuestradores que vivan de una mala manera no muy justa de ellos se encargaran las autoridades competentes y se harán responsables de sus actos. Pedimos a las autoridades Municipales, Estatales y Federales que cumplan con sus Responsabilidades y Obligaciones, para llevar a cabo las propuestas y recursos erogados a favor de la Sociedad con Honestidad y Dignidad. Nuestra labor Altruista, Filantrópica es y será en cada momento a favor de los más necesitados y en quien tenga razón. Nuestro deber es Cuidar y Velar por los intereses de Nuestra gente en esta tierra hermosa que es MICHOACÁN. ¡Fuera del Estado! Todos aquellos Policías corruptos y Militares que aunque bien sabemos que hay algunos buenos elementos, bienvenidos a los que vienen con buenas intenciones y quien no que se atenga a las consecuencias y al Filo de Nuestra Espada y Fortaleza cuando nos hacen atropellados de injusticia oh abusos de poder. En pocas palabras como nos traten serán tratados. ¡No a la intromisión a Michoacán de los Zetas y el Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación! VIVA MICHOACÁN Y VIVAN LOS CABALLEROS TEMPLARIOS GUARDIA MICHOACANA.”

 

This message is remarkable because it represents an effort on behalf of Los Caballeros Templarios to improve relations with their crucial power base in Michoacan. Cynical observers might dismiss the message as conveying insincere apologies for transgressions, because the Templars do not take seriously the ideals they claim to uphold. While this may be true, it misses the significance of this message as a sign that the Templars are beginning to understand that alienating its own public can endanger them and their operations, or at least they are resuming an overdue effort toward doing something about it.

This is not the first public apology made by the Templars with regard to its operatives deviating from the organization’s allegedly community-based values. But this new message must be placed in the context of what the Templars have been dealing with within Michoacan, as well as the widespread news of the capture of Z40, leader of the Zetas (an enemy organization), who had  notoriously poor relations with the public.

The Knights Templar have been fighting with the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco (CJNG) since 2012. The Sinaloa Cartel, which was allied with both organizations when they began to fight, seemed to do little to interfere in their struggle to control areas bordering Jalisco and Michoacan. Eventually the CJNG broke alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel, and the latter organization may have offered some assistance to the Knights Templar through a proxy group, Los Aliados, but the Knights Templar probably realize they are on their own against the CJNG.

While the CJNG is not a particularly large organization, it has proven itself capable, cunning, and ruthlessly expansionistic, as evidenced by its ability to push into the Zetas’ Veracruz plaza, which is on the opposite coast of Mexico than is Jalisco, the CJNG’s power base. The CJNG may also be the most pioneering of any Mexican cartel with regard to its approach to propaganda and the creativity it has shown in the effort to influence public opinion against its enemies. In Veracruz, this was evidenced by its internationally publicized campaign in which CJNG operatives became known as “Matazetas” (i.e., Zeta killers) after dumping dozens of decomposing, alleged operatives of the Zetas onto a Veracruz expressway during broad daylight. At that time, the Matazetas released videos claiming to be a vigilante organization against the Zetas. Public reactions were ambivalent (read: a mixture of positive and negative) toward the Matazetas until Mexican officials made public statements clarifying the Matazetas were not vigilantes, but another cartel that was similar in form, function, and substance to the much despised Zetas. More recently, the CJNG has encroached within Michoacan using proxy groups such as La Ruana, which poses as a community policing group with vigilante motives against the Knights Templar, who are based in that area.

The Knights Templar have been vulnerable to such public relations efforts on the part of the CJNG because they (the Templars) have done much to alienate the public within their home territory of Michoacan. They have contributed to the degeneration of local society by selling hard drugs in that region, by involvement in extortion, kidnapping, and other local crimes, as well as gratuitous violence that is completely unnecessary for drug trafficking. The CJNG has taken advantage of the Templars’ foolish alienation of its own public in Michoacan. Disenfranchised people are supporting the community policing groups not because they are so naive they don’t understand the CJNG is supporting them, but because they are disgusted with their local criminal culture, which is greatly influenced by the Knights Templar.

The Templars are wise to apologize, but they would be foolish to assume that apologizing without other changes will repair the damage they have caused upon their own public relations. The apologies must accompany real and immediate changes in cartel-public relations within Michoacan. This will require a minimization of hard drug sales, elimination of kidnapping and extortion, and elimination of tariffs that impact labor within Michoacan. Gratuitous violence within Michoacan must be greatly minimized. The taxation of farmers is a public relations nightmare and should be ended if the Tempars expect Michoacanos to stop giving intelligence and other forms of support to their enemies in the CJNG or Mexican law enforcement. If the Templars fail to accomplish these things quickly, they should expect this propaganda effort to backfire, and for their disenfranchised public to increasingly support any entity (whether criminal organization or law enforcement agency) that will rid them of the nuisance that the Knights Templar cartel has allowed itself to impose upon the local public within Michoacan.

The Michoacan public cares little for whether gringos or other foreigners use drugs, and cares a great deal about the quality of local community life. There is a possibility for the Knights Templar to repair its poor relations with Michoacan’s public if it can transform itself into an organization that only sells drugs in faraway markets, minimizes local crime, and keeps out encroaching outsiders such as the Zetas or the CJNG. They should refrain from making claims of being altruistic, which no Michoacano will believe, and which only erode the Templars’ credibility in the eyes of the Michoacan public. Instead, the Templars must produce the changes necessary, and must make the public aware of real, verifiable changes when they occur. It must repeat its apologies when appropriate. If the Templars fail to accomplish any of those objectives, they should expect to be weakened by state repression until they are overtaken by other cartels with better public relations sensibilities that would prefer to control Michoacan’s drug production resources, not to mention its valuable coastal location for importing and exporting profit-generating substances to faraway markets.

 



[i] Accessed July 18, 2013: http://www.notinfomex.info/2013/07/deja-narcomantas-en-puentes-los.html

[ii] Accessed July 18, 2013: http://www.historiasdelnarco.com/2013/07/en-narcomantas-templarios-ofrecen.html

 

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