The Knights Templar, an offshoot of the Familia Michoacana, one of Mexico's most prominent drug cartels, issued warnings to other criminal organizations to avoid violence during an upcoming visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico.
The Associated Press reported that the messages were delivered on "narcomantas," or banners, that the groups place in public places.
"We just want to warn that we do not want more groups in the state of Guanajuato. Confrontations will be inevitable. You have been warned, New Generation, we want Guanajuato in Peace, so don't think about moving in and much less causing violence, precisely at this time when His Holiness Benedict XVI is coming," the AP report translated one sign as reading.
The call echoes those of the archbishop of León, a Guanajuato city the Pope will be visiting, who also asked for a break in violence during the Pope's visit from March 23 to March 26, EFE said.
InSight Crime Analysis
Guanajuato has become a battleground state with the Knights Templar and the so-called New Generation of Jalisco Cartel gangs fighting for control. In this way, the state resembles many others in Mexico, as smaller, splinter groups have emerged to contest numerous places that have seen increasing violence.
The messages also follow the recent arrest of the alleged Guanajuato boss for the Knights Templar and appear to be another cynical ploy to gain public support in an important and now leaderless area. When the Knights Templar emerged from the dissolution of the Familia Michoacana cartel, they emulated their precursor's use of religious imagery, dogma and rhetoric. Like the Familia, they employ a mixture of terror tactics and public relations in search of popular support and acceptance.
This mixed approach is perhaps best exemplified by the 2006 incident that brought Familia international recognition, when five severed heads were rolled onto a dance floor in a discotheque along with a message asserting the group's benevolence and desire to see peace in the region.