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La Tuta

Servando Gomez Martinez, alias "La Tuta," is a former high-ranking member of the Familia Michoacana, who split from the group following the death of top commander Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo," in December 2010. The Familia is now thought to be gravely diminished, with Gomez's splinter group, the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), taking over much of its criminal activities and networks.

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Gomez is originally a schoolteacher from Arteaga, Michoacan, which inspired his other alias, "El Profe" or the professor. As recently as December 2010, he was still on federal payroll for his teaching job. He is believed to be based in Michoacan and Guerrero, and to coordinate drug shipments through Baja California.

In the public arena, Gomez was a fervent promoter of the Familia’s vigilante ideology, claiming the group’s ultimate purpose is to protect Michoacan from unwelcome outsiders, namely, the Zetas, a rival criminal gang that trained the original members of the Familia before the group became independent.

During a phone interview with a local TV program, "Voz y Solucion," in 2009, Gomez praised President Felipe Calderon and the Army, then claimed the Familia’s only grievances were with the Zetas and the Federal Police for "attacking our families." Members of the Familia followed a strict behavioral code and those who disobeyed were "made to pay," he added, unlike the Zetas, about whom he said: "most of them are drug addicts."

Since his split from the Familia, whose remnants were led by Jose de Jesus Mendez, alias "El Chango," Gomez has headed the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), a drug trafficking organization with the same quasi-religious sensibility and faux-moral codes as the Familia. The Caballeros announced their appearance in March 2011, and now seem to be ascendent over the Familia, with Mendez in jail and many analysts considering the old group to be effectively out of action. However, this could be a pyrrhic victory, with the government coming down hard on the Michoacan successor group.

Gomez has been facing mounting pressure. His nephew, girlfriend, mother and brother were all arrested between July and August 2009. In October of that year, a New York grand jury indicted Gomez for drug trafficking. But Gomez may still count on protection from other native sons of Michoacan, including the fugitive federal deputy Julio Cesar Godoy, who stands accused of receiving about $2 million from the Familia in dirty funds.


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