The leader of Mexico's Knights Templar has claimed the cartel was twice contacted by the sister of former president Felipe Calderon, who is currently a senator, raising questions of whether the group's corruptive influence has reached the top levels of Mexican politics.
Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," appeared in a YouTube video on November 27 (see below) claiming Senator Luisa Maria Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) contacted the Knights Templar during the Michoacan state elections in 2011.
The video shows La Tuta apparently speaking with a local government candidate the senator used as an intermediary, who is now a local government official in Apatzingan.
He said the first time his group spoke with the senator was after they kidnapped her cousin during the 2006 elections for failing to pay back a loan, when she contacted them to request his release in exchange for some "favors."
For her part, the senator has claimed the Knights Templar has had contact with Michoacan state Governor Fausto Vallejo of the opposing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), an accusation denied by La Tuta in the video.
The senator fiercely denied the accusations, saying La Tuta's claims were a response to her own accusations several days before that people claiming to be community leaders received in the Senate in October were in fact Knights Templar members.
InSight Crime Analysis
The senator's claims that Knights Templar members were received in the Senate, which provoked La Tuta's latest diatribe, make for a strange tale and it is unclear what exactly happened and whether the situation is related to corruption or political smears.
As the head of one of Mexico's most notorious criminal organizations, La Tuta is obviously far from a reliable witness and any claims he makes must be treated with suspicion. However, top-level corruption would certainly not be out of the question in Mexico and it is not the first time such accusations have been leveled -- last year, jailed former cartel leader Edgar Valdez Villarreal, alias "La Barbie," accused former President Calderon himself of accepting bribes from him and of trying to organized a pact between drug cartels.
In the current political and criminal environment, it is unusual for criminal organizations to look to corrupt national politicians, as their interests are better served by corrupting on a local level, and so gaining influence in the areas where they operate rather than over national policy. According to one official estimate, 40 percent of Mexico's towns and cities are subject to the influence of criminal groups, who determine everything from who is put in office to who is given local contracts.