The latest video installment from Mexico's Knights Templar leader "La Tuta" shows the drug lord dividing up the inheritance of a deceased local businessman, illustrating how the criminal group has assumed social and judicial functions in the state of Michoacan.
In the video (see below), Knights Templar leader Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," divides the inheritance of Luis Miguel Estefan among five individuals, including the late businessman's wife and two brothers.
Wearing his characteristic baseball cap and glasses, La Tuta stumbles awkwardly through the proceedings, forgetting names and gesticulating aggressively with a pen. After dividing up Estefan's properties -- which included four houses, a restaurant, and a hotel -- La Tuta states that the businessman's relatives also have to make a "donation" of over $450,000 to the criminal group. Then the cartel leader asks each of the relatives to state that they agreed to the division of assets while looking straight into the camera.
This video follows several other recently released Knights Templar recordings, including that of a Michoacan mayor asking for the group's help in investigating her son-in-law's murder, and a video of the son of former governor Fausto Vallejo talking to La Tuta.
InSight Crime Analysis
The most recent video demonstrates how the Knights are so deeply embedded in Michoacan society that they not only run criminal activities, but have also taken on social and judicial roles -- albeit for their own profit -- and are accepted as arbiters in legal matters. It is likely in part La Tuta's ties to the local community that have allowed him to evade capture.
While it is unclear who released the footage or why, it adds to an ever expanding catalogue of Knights Templar videos. The videos often function as an unusual form of publicity with the group attempting to portray itself as a "brotherhood" with a strict moral code that seeks to protect the people of Michoacan. There were also elements of this in the most recent video, with La Tuta talking about dividing up the properties based on moral -- rather than legal -- grounds.
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The Knights Templar also appear to use videos as leverage with political figures, such as former governor Vallejo's son Rodrigo, who was arrested after the release of the video of his meeting with La Tuta.