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)
Supporters of José Manuel Mireles Valverde, the imprisoned leader of the "community police" self-defense forces in Mexico's violence-torn Michoacán state, are holding a protest mobilization to demand his release. The biggest rally so far took place Aug. 31 in Hermosillo, Sonora, where he is being held in a maximum-security prison. Mireles was the one significant leader of the "community police" movement who refused to accept the government's deal to bring the vigilante militias under the control of the official security forces. He was arrested by state and federal police on June 27 at the Michoacán pueblo of La Mira, and charged with narcotics and arms trafficking. His legal team says the evidence against him was fabricated, and that he was tortured while in detention. In announcing the protest campaign, his lawyers and supporters said they would file complaints about his treatment with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and United Nations. They say that Mireles, a longtime activist who ran for Mexico's senate with the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 2006, is really being punished for refusing to go along with the "community police" movement being integrated into official police and military forces themselves deeply co-opted by the drug cartels. (El Impercial, Hermosillo, Sept. 1; La Jornada, Aug. 31; El Universal, Aug. 29; AM de Queretaro, Aug. 26; Milenio, Aug. 19; El Siglo, Durango, Aug. 12; Excelsior, Jan. 17)
Amid growing concern about horrific human rights abuses by Mexico's security forces, Amnesty International on Sept. 4 issued a report, aptly entitled "Out of Control," harshly criticizing the Mexican government for its failure to adequately investigate allegations of torture and other "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at the hands of the military and police. The report finds that such practices are condoned, tolerated or ignored by superior officers, prosecutors, judges and even official human rights bodies. The report calls on Mexico to enforce its own human rights laws—echoing similar demands made by Amnesty last year, urging the Mexican Senate to adopt legislation to protect against rights violations by the military. (Jurist, Sept. 5)
Mexico's government on May 10 started to swear in members of the "community police" vigilante network in Michoacán state for a new rural police force, which is supposed to bring the self-defense militias under state control. An initial 240 "community police" members gathered for the ceremony in the village of Tepacaltepec, a stronghold of the movement, where they received new blue uniforms and registered their rifles, or turned them in for state-issued AR-15s. The ceremony was overseen by the federal pointman for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, who waxed florid for the occassion: "Those who 15 months ago said 'Enough' and decided to confront those who did them harm—because of them today we have the State Rural Force that carries the same conviction of justice, of courage, valor, bravery needed to protect those, who we love the most, our families."
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.
Just weeks after the Mexican government signed an accord with the "community police" vigilante network in Michoacán, ostensibly bringing the anti-narco militias under control of the armed forces, it is looking more and more like they have been transformed into a lawless paramilitary force—even acting against Mexico''s federal authorities. On March 19, "community police" forces at La Placita, on Michoacán's Pacific coast, launched a blockade of the entrance of a Mexican naval outpost, apparently in protest of the disarming of 14 of their gunmen by Mexican marines stationed there. The blockade escalated in the following days, with hundreds of armed vigilantes from neighboring towns converging at the base. (El Sol de Leon, March 21)
Hipolito Mora, a top leader of the "community police" self-defense network in Michoacán, was detained by state police March 10 as a suspect in the slaying of two members of the movement. The detention comes amid an armed stand-off between rival factions of the self-defense network in the town of Buenavista Tomatlán. Hundreds of police and soldiers have been sent to the town as factions have seized turf and drawn lines across the municipality. Mora was helicoptered from Los Palmares ranch, in an outlying area of Buenavista, where he and his armed followers were holed up against rivals. The rival outfit, based in Buenavista's hamlet of La Ruana, is said to be led by Luís Antonio Torres González, who goes by the nom de guerre "Simón El Americano," because he grew up in the US. Torres González told local media that the two dead men were part of his defense group. Their bodies were found inside a pick-up truck that had been set on fire.