Another bloody incident in the ongoing crackdown on anti-narco citizen self-defense militias is reported from Mexico's conflicted west-central state of Michoacán. On July 19, a detachment of army and marine troops was mobilized to the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, an outlying hamlet of Ixtapilla puebla in Aquila municipality. Villagers mobilized upon the troops' advance, blocking the road into Ostula. In the ensuing fracas, soldiers fired on the villagers, leaving a youth dead and four other community members injured. The troops then carried out their mission: to arrest Semeí Verdía Zepeda, leader of the Aquila self-defense group. He was charged with illegal possession of two rifles, including an AK-47. (Informador.mx, La Jornada, Sopitas, July 19)
Mexican authorities on Feb. 27 announced the capture of the country's most-wanted drug lord, Servando Gómez AKA "La Tuta"—boss of Michoacán's feared Knights Templar cartel. After a long surveillance operation, "La Tuta" was taken without a shot in a raid on a house in state capital Morelia. Also known as "El Profe" due his past as a schoolteacher, the leader of the cultish Knights Templar had overseen a bloody campaign for control of the Michoacán plaza (sphere of operations) against the group's principal rival, La Familia Michoacana, from which it broke off in 2010. Despite a $2 million price on his head, La Tuta had publicly proclaimed that he would rather die than go to prison. After his capture, he was taken to Mexico City, where he was paraded before TV cameras, before being flown by helicopter to the maximum-security Altiplano prison. Police seized several Michoacán properties in the weeks leading up the capture and arrested several of his associates, including his brother, Flavio Gómez, who was said to be in charge of the cartel's finances. The Knights Templars are said to control sprawling agricultural lands and real estate across Michoacán.
Michoacán state police on Sept. 12 found the body of a brother of Servando Gómez Martínez AKA "La Tuta"—leader of the notorious Knights Templar cartel and Mexico's most wanted drug lord. Aquiles Gómez Martínez was found dead of a gunshot wound at his home in the Pacific port city of Lázaro Cárdenas. A 9 mm pistol, two ammunition clips and a box containing 50 bullets were also found at the residence. Prosecutors had identified him and two other purported brothers of "La Tuta," Flavio and Luis Felipe Gómez Martínez, as chief operatives of Los Caballeros Templarios. (EFE, Sept. 19)
Mexican authorities on May 1 announced the seizure of a ship carrying 68,000 tons of illegal iron ore bound for China—hailed as the latest blow in a crackdown on the contraband mineral sideline by the Knights Templar drug cartel. Federal police were apparently tipped off by an anonymous phone call after the ship left Lazaro Cárdenas, the Pacific port in conflicted Michoacán state. Authorities detained the ship, the Jian Hua, off Manzanillo, the next major port up the coast, in neighboring Colima state. The ship's crew produced documents showing it had authorization to transport the iron ore. But authoriites said the paperwork listed a legal mine that was not the actual source of the contraband ore. The company operating the ship, China's Fujian Huarong Marine, has been given one month to prove to authorities that the ore was extracted legally. Mexican authorities say they have seized more than 200,000 tons of illegal iron ore so far this year, most of it headed for China.
Here we go again. Mexican authorities announced March 9 the death of Michoacán's top drug lord Nazario Moreno AKA "El Chayo" in a shoot-out that erupted when a mixed force of military and federal police troops raided his 44th birthday party in the pueblo of Apatzingán. Also known as "El Más Loco" (the Craziest One), "El Macho Loco" and "El Doctor," Moreno was the founder of both La Familia cartel and its offshoot, the Knights Templar. But there is an all-too-familiar sense of deja vu here: this is the second time that El Chayo was reported killed in a shoot-out with federal cops in Apatzingán. The first time was in December 2010, although authorities didn't produce the body. This time they have, and boast positive forensic identification. (Univision, March 10; BBC News, La Jornada, AP, Milenio, March 9)
Mexican authorities on March 4 announced the seizure of 119,000 tons of iron ore—with an estimated value of $15.4 million—along with 124 bulldozers, backhoes and trucks at Michoacán's Pacific seaport of Lázaro Cardenas, following tips about drug cartels exporting black-market ore to China. More than 400 federal police and military troops were involved in the coordinated raids on 11 processing facilities in the port city. Six Chinese workers at the sites were arrested, apparently on immigration charges. The federal security commissioner for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, told Periódico Digital that the ore is being tested to determine which mines it came from in order to crack down on the operation. In November 2013, the Mexican Navy took control of Lázaro Cardenas to cut off illicit exports for the Knights Templar drug cartel. (Metal Miner, March 7; Mining.com, Port Technology, March 4)
Mexican security forces announced Jan. 30 the arrest of a top leader of the New Generation drug cartel, based in the western state of Jalisco. Rubén Oseguera González AKA "El Menchito" is said to be second-in-command in the criminal organization led by his father, Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes AKA "El Mencho," and is also known as "El Junior." He was arrested in a major operation that involved dozens of army troops in Zapopan, a city in the Guadalajara metropolitan area. There remains a 2 million peso ($150,000) price on the head of El Menchu, and media accounts said he narrowly escaped capture last year. The New Generation group is said to be allied with the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico's most powerful trafficking organization.
Mexico's federal government signed an accord with Michoacán's "community police" network Jan. 27, calling for the self-defense militias to be incorporated into the official security forces. The pact was signed by Alfredo Castillo, the government's special pointman for pacification of Michoacán, and 30 leaders of the "community police" forces. The ceremony took place at the village of Tepalcatepec, one of those recently seized by the militias. The "community police" are to be absorbed into the Rural Defense Corps, a paramilitary network under the command of the National Defense Secretariat.