Mexico's Knights Templar are allegedly behind a series of "narco-banners" claiming the group has helped lower food prices across the state of Michoacan, the latest in a series of ambitious public relations efforts by the criminal group.
According to news service Agencia Esquema, one banner read, in part, "The Knights Templar are not narcos, much less a criminal cartel, the Knights Templar are are a brotherhood of citizens who respect the constitution... in the past few days our brotherhood has invited the meat and tortilla vendors to lower their prices. An invitation accepted by our friends the merchants and recognized by the neediest people of our state. Keeping clear that for said action to occur there existed no pressure, nor blackmail, much less charging fees."
"Narcomantas" were reported in the cities of Morelia, capital of Michoacan state, as well as Zitacuaro, Lazaro Cardenas, Uruapan, Apatzingan, Ocampo, and Tuxpan.
InSight Crime Analysis
This series of "narcomantas" follows the truce called by the Knights Templar in advance of the Pope's visit to Guanajuato, a state neighboring Michoacan. The group, an offshoot of the Familia Michoacana, has, like its predecessor, cultivated a unique image through its use of banners and religious iconography, like the Roman-style helmets seized in late February.
This latest round of banners appears to be another cynical ploy to shore up public support. It seems unlikely that the Knights Templar were able to convince vendors to lower their prices without offering some kind of incentive, whether a threat or a bribe. Additionally, despite their claims otherwise, violence was not completely halted in their stronghold of Michoacan during the Pope's visit to neighboring Guanajuato, calling into question the sincerity of their public announcements.