Knights Templar 'narcomanta' addressed to President Calderon

A series of banners  reportedly left by the Knights Templar gang in three Mexican states wish outgoing president Felipe Calderon well for the future, continuing the group's penchant for public relations.

On the morning of November 14, banners, or “narcomantas,” signed by the Knights Templar gang were discovered throughout the states of Guerrero, Michoacan and Guanajuato, reported Reforma (via El Diario). All of the narcomantas were addressed to the outgoing president, Felipe Calderon, who is set to leave office on December 1.

Following is InSight Crime’s partial translation of the message:

“Message to Mr President Felipe Calderon ... we have never agreed with the way in which you treated us. Your intentions may have been good, but not your actions.

However, with all the human pain that you caused us ... we want to say that we learned a lot and recognize that we, as a rebel body, have also caused the Federal Police (PFP) injuries, well deserved ones. We ... wanted respect, but you would turn to look at  us. It would have been nice for Michoacan if you with ... the power that you had, had treated your people with love and true justice.

We apologize for everything, and as we are not going to see you governing in December, we wish for you, your family and your cabinet, in the words of Vicente Fernandez [an iconic Mexican singer], “that everything goes well.” Sincerely, the Knights Templar.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The Knights Templar, a splinter group of the Familia Michoacana who first announced their arrival on Mexico’s criminal scene in March 2011, have been intent on casting themselves as protectors of the people who follow a strict ethical code, despite their involvement in criminal activities such as murder and drug trafficking. This quasi-moralism was espoused in an August video address by the group’s leader Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," whereby he stressed that the sole purpose of the gang was to “help the people ... and keep our country free of people causing terror.”

These most recent messages conform to this public relations drive and also display the group’s willingness to show a degree of respectfulness toward the government, in spite of what the gang perceives to be its failings. La Tuta, for example, expressed his thanks to Mexico’s armed forces in his video.

Curiously, the message to Calderon strikes a very mixed tone. Though it condemns his inability to provide the people with justice, it somewhat surprisingly offers an apology, though it is unclear exactly what for. In light of this, it is likely that the gang believes that with these tactics it can eschew the spotlight of the state’s offensive against organized crime and garner favor with the people it claims to help.

Indeed, the Knights Templar appear to have achieved the latter to some extent. A recent Associated Press report highlighted how the gang funds community and public works in areas of Michoacan, having largely supplanted the state as an authority in certain parts. This has enabled them also to overtake the Familia as the principal criminal group in Michoacan.

Despite their efforts to try and gain the government’s favor, however, Michoacan has been the site of numerous security surges against the gang this year, more recently in August when 15,000 federal troops were sent to seven states, including Michoacan. Given the group’s focus on public relations, it seems likely they will take a similar approach when the new administration of Enrique Peña Nieto arrives next month.