A Mexican newspaper has published a photo gallery of the leaders of the Knights Templar, a drug cartel that, unlike others in Mexico, courts and thrives on publicity -- a strategy that could come back to bite them.
First up in Excelsior's presentation is "La Tuta" or "El Profe" (The Professor), Servando Gomez Martinez, one of two main leaders of the group. La Tuta is known for his video appearances and interviews staking the Knights' claim to be protectors of the people from other "terrorist" cartels like the Zetas. According to the security commissioner in Michoacan state, where the Knights Templar is based, Gomez's capture is imminent, reported El Informador.
Next in Excelsior's list is the legendary Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo"
(pictured right), one of the founders of Familia Michoacana, the group from which the Knights Templar emerged, who was allegedly killed by security forces in 2010.
SEE ALSO: Familia Michoacana News and Profile
His body was never recovered which has fueled the myth among Knights Templar members and supporters that he is still alive, and that the group must follow the "teachings" of the supposed evangelical Christian.
Dionisio Loya Plancarte, alias "El Tio," (The Uncle), is described by Excelsior as a senior member of the Knights, responsible for their media strategy, though he was captured last month. Enrique Plancarte Solis, alias "El Kike" (pictured left) is the other main leader alongside La Tuta, says El Excelsior.
InSight Crime Analysis
Unlike other Mexican cartels, the Knights adore publicity. Like their Familia predecessors, they heavily promote their own propaganda, frequently spouting messages about their struggle to protect the people of Michoacan from materialism, injustice and bigger criminal cartels, while purportedly subjecting themselves to a strict moral code. Meanwhile, Enrique Plancarte's children have released pop songs and posted photos of themselves on social media that glamorize narco culture.
Thrusting themselves into the spotlight may ultimately prove to be a destructive strategy. Michoacan is one of the two Mexican states where citizen self-defense groups have surged most powerfully in recent years, and the armed groups have explicitly said they intend to rid the state of the Knights. Violence generated by the Knights, and the group's high profile, has led federal forces to send in extra troops and create a legal framework under which vigilantes can assist with Michoacan security operations.
Vigilante groups in neighboring Guerrero, where the self-defense movement has also flourished amid drug violence, have not been successful in gaining government backing, and the state has received comparatively little attention from the federal government. This is in part because criminal groups there are smaller and have maintained lower profiles.