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BRIEF

Knights Templar Welcome Mexico's New President

KNIGHTS TEMPLAR / 20 DEC 2012 BY EDWARD FOX EN

A series of banners signed in the name of the Knights Templar gang were hung in west Mexico, welcoming President Enrique Peña Nieto to office and declaring that the group will lay down arms if he complies with its demands.

The banners, known as "narcomantas," were discovered early on December 19 in the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) stronghold of Michoacan state and neighboring Guanajuato. They began by giving Peña Nieto the "warmest welcome," offering to work in support of the government in its efforts to rid Mexico of the problems left by the previous president, Felipe Calderon, reported Quadratin.

The message continues: "If you (Peña Nieto) do what you promised during your tour of the country, we will give up our weapons and leave [Mexico's] security in your hands," warning that if this is not done, they will continue to "protect" their land, reported Tiempo.

InSight Crime Analysis

The content of the message are not out of the ordinary for propaganda enthusiasts the Knights Templar. Before Calderon left office on December 1, there were similarly conciliatory message from the group, bidding him farewell and wishing him the best for the future.

The offer of laying down arms is not to be taken seriously. The Knights Templar tries to portray itself as a defender of the people, working to rid Michocan of the "scourge" of other cartels, but it is engaged in an array of crimes from drug trafficking and extortion to homicide. Regardless of whether Peña Nieto follows through on the promises alluded to in the message, the gang is very unlikely to abandon its profitable criminal enterprise so willingly. 

What's more, Peña Nieto's recently announced security strategy is unlikely to change much in the way the government goes about tackling crime in the country, appearing to be more or less a continuation of Calderon's policies.

The banners should be seen, therefore, as little more than an attempt to distract attention from Knights Templar criminal operations and gain public support.

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