A senior security official in Mexico has claimed that the leader of the Knights Templar criminal organization is "practically neutralized," but "La Tuta's" latest YouTube rant suggests the notorious cartel boss is not ready to bow out just yet.
Speaking in an interview with Milenio TV, the head of Mexico's National Security Commission, Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, said the federal security forces had effectively ended the operations of the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) and their leader Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," in the troubled state of Michoacan.
"I can assure you that today 'La Tuta,' is not operating, he is not working because he doesn't have the margins to maneuver," he said.
However, just days before Rubido's interview, La Tuta returned to his favorite Internet soapbox, YouTube, to post a video attacking the self-defense militias that have been fighting the Knights Templar in the region (see below). The drug lord alleged that several leaders owed the Knights Templar money for drugs or in cash loans.
Elsewhere in the state, former Governor Fausto Vallejo has become embroiled in scandal after the publication of a video of his son discussing the region's political situation with La Tuta (see bottom).
Vallejo has claimed that his son was forced to attend the meeting with La Tuta, calling him a "victim of organized crime." However, the Mexican authorities have launched an investigation into his ties to the Knights.
InSight Crime Analysis
There is no doubt that the Knights Templar have been left reeling by an assault waged by vigilante militias on one hand and federal forces on the other. The Knights have been driven from areas once firmly under their control and have lost most of their key leaders, leaving La Tuta an increasingly isolated figure.
However, whether this means that La Tuta no longer has power to carry out operations is debatable. He has likely lost the ability to move and operate freely in Michoacan, but such territorial restrictions do not fatally cripple a criminal organization -- all that is really needed to keep the business running is for communication channels to stay open.
This capacity to operate from afar has been amply demonstrated by capos such as the Sinaloa Cartel's Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who authorities believe moved constantly throughout six states before his capture, or the Colombian narcos who have managed operations from as far away as Venezuela and Argentina.
Ongoing corruption scandals in Michoacan offer another reason why it will be more difficult than Rubido claims to fully dismantle the Knights Templar. The group has deep roots in the state, having infiltrated politics, security institutions, and business communities.