The former interim governor of Mexico's southwest Pacific state of Michoacan has been sent to federal prison for alleged Knights Templar ties, in a case highlighting the far reaching corrupt political network that facilitated the group's expansion.
Mexico's Attorney General's Office announced May 7 that Jose de Jesus Reyna Garcia would be imprisoned on organized crime charges, based on declarations, financial information and evidence he held meetings with Knights leaders including the head of the group, Servando "La Tuta" Gomez, reported El Universal.
The ex-Michoacan governor and government secretary was first placed under a 40 day "arraigo" -- detention while investigations continue -- in early April on suspicions he had links to the group. After investigations unearthed evidence of his collusion with criminal groups, prosecutors requested a formal arrest warrant and on the morning of May 8 Reyna Garcia was sent to the Altiplano maximum security prison in the State of Mexico.
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The case against Reyna Garcia is just the latest in a string of arrests, investigations and accusations implicating Michoacan officials for Knights Templar ties. In April, two mayors were arrested -- one the head of the state's principal port city -- for such links, while various councilmen in the town of Apatzingan detailed their experiences living in the group's clutches.
Additionally, former PRD senator Iris Vianey Mendoza came under fire after appearing alongside the daughter of late Knights leader Enrique "Kike" Plancarte in a photo, and La Tuta has accused former President Felipe Calderon's sister of contacting the group. According to vigilante leader Jose Manuel Mireles, there are many others who have provided protection to the Knights.
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The discovery of this extensive political network sheds light on how the Knights Templar have exercised such deep-seated social and economic control in Michoacan. In addition to drug trafficking, the group has exerted power over industries from iron mining to avocado farming since its emergence, using extortion and violence to appropriate profits.
These arrests have come at a time of a sustained offensive against the Knights Templar by the federal government and local self-defense forces, which has seen much of the group's leadership fall. However, there are signs a new, hybrid criminal organization is already emerging to fill the resulting criminal power vacuum, and it is unlikely the state will prove capable of installing a corruption-free new regime or asserting power in the region.