Video footage has emerged of a vigilante leader in Michoacan, Mexico, meeting with the head of the Knights Templar just months before he joined a government-organized "Rural Defense Force," giving weight to fears over the criminalization of self-defense militias.
In the video (see below), published by Excelsior, vigilante Luis Antonio Torres Gonzalez, alias "El Americano," looks on as Knights Templar leader Servando Gomez, alias "La Tuta" orders Carlos Sierra Santana and his criminal group Los Viagras out of their territory.
The video dates back to the end of 2013, according to Excelsior. At that time, El Americano was the leader of a self-defense militia in Buenavista Tomatlan.
According to unconfirmed reports by the Borderland Beat blog, the meeting came after Los Viagras cut a deal with the Knights' enemies in the Jalisco Cartel - New Generation (CJNG) and began encroaching on the Knights' territory.
InSight Crime Analysis
El Americano has been at the center of persistent rumors that factions of the vigilante forces that emerged to combat the Knights Templar in Michoacan have become criminalized. He has been accused of using the militia he led as a cover for his work with the Knights, and was at the heart of a confrontation between rival militias that led to several murders. La Tuta has also publicly claimed that the vigilante owed him money.
Earlier this year, El Americano was accused of being part of a new criminal organization in the region, known as "La Tercera Hermandad" (Third Brotherhood) or H3, which is reportedly seeking to fill the power vacuum left by the fragmented Knights Templar. This network allegedly involves elements of the Knights Templar, CJ-NG, Los Viagras and leaders of other self-defense militias.
In the criminal chaos unleashed by the vigilante assault against the Knights Templar, little is certain about the criminal networks now operating in Michoacan, and how far vigilante leaders are involved with them. However, with El Americano now part of the state's "Rural Defense Force," the video of him meeting with criminal leaders raises serious concerns over government efforts to control that chaos by legalizing factions of the self-defense movement.