The prosecutor general of Michoacan state in west Mexico has admitted carrying out operations with alleged drug traffickers in the hunt for Knights Templar criminal boss "La Tuta," yet again raising the specter of state collusion with organized crime.
The revelation follows accusations by Servando Gomez, alias "La Tuta," that officials in Michoacan were collaborating with the Sierra Santana brothers, better known as "the Viagras."
When questioned by journalists on the allegations, Jose Martin Godoy Castro said "These people you are talking about [the Viagras] have participated in some of the operations we have carried out in the hunt for this criminal leader [La Tuta]."
Godoy specifically mentioned the recent operation to take down La Tuta's security chief Jose Julio Mendoza, alias "El Parotas."
In the recording released by La Tuta (see video below), he claimed the Viagras were once his lieutenants in the state of Guerrero but defected to join the Guerreros Unidos -- the group accused of massacring 43 missing students in Iguala.
In September this year, Nicolas Sierra Santana denied any links to criminal activities and claimed the name "the Viagras" was simply a nickname for his family.
InSight Crime Analysis
While the Viagras' criminal activities remain legally unproven, there is plenty of evidence to suggest they are part of the west Mexico underworld, including a video in which its leaders appear with La Tuta, who orders them out of his territory.
The admission that the Mexican authorities were working alongside the group provides yet another example of the authorities' "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" approach to security in Michoacan, which has succeeded in decimating the Knights Templar but may be creating new centers of criminal power.
With La Tuta and the Knights apparently in terminal decline, the Michoacan underworld is beginning to reorganize. The Viagras, along with criminal-linked members of the vigilante militias that helped take down the Knights, are prime candidates to fill the vacuum, and any links they forge with the authorities will doubtless help them in this task.
Cooperation between the authorities and the Viagras also edges Mexico closer to realizing fears that the approach taken in Michoacan may end up mirroring events in Colombia, where the state colluded with drug trafficking paramilitaries to combat guerrilla groups -- a relationship that still haunts the country today, eight years after the paramilitaries demobilized.