Knights Templar leader Servando “La Tuta” Gomez, who was arrested by Mexican authorities today, was renowned for his extensive and bombastic reliance on video recordings, behavior that differentiated him from other cartel leaders and earned him a reputation as an unabashed showman.
In his various video and audio recordings, Gomez liked to project an image of altruism as well as defiance. Gomez also demonstrated an ability to use these recordings — widely distributed in Mexican mainstream and social media — as leverage against rivals and political figures. The release of several recordings of his meetings with various persons of interest in Michoacan led to the arrest and imprisonment of prominent local politicians.
Indeed, while other drug traffickers are typically keen on keeping a low profile to avoid detection, Gomez embraced and maintained an active media presence — even going so far as to pay reporters to keep him in the media spotlight. Below is a review of his most prominent — and antagonistic — social media appearances.
Victory or Death!
In an audio recording from 2011, Gomez — then a leader of the quasi-religious group the Familia Michoacana — told his followers to fight to the death against government invaders and rival criminal organizations.
In a speech similar to what a general might say to his troops before entering battle, Gomez told his “compañeros” to “pay close attention to your weapons; keep them by your side. Tell all your compañeros not to forget anything — food or anything else.”
La Tuta Lays Out the Knights Templar Manifesto
In August 2012, Gomez appeared in a video before a backdrop of the Mexican flag, a statue of a knight, a Che Guevara poster, and a picture of Fidel Castro.
In his 11-minute speech, Gomez asserted that the Knights Templar had peaceful intentions, and said that the group was a “necessary evil.” He also called it a “fraternity,” stating, “Our only function is to help the people, preserve our state … and keep our country free of people causing terror … It sounds a little controversial, but this is what we want: to live in peace.”
SEE ALSO: Knights Templar News and Profiles
Gomez also called on other groups to form a “common front” and eradicate the Zetas.
La Tuta Blames Rival Groups for Violence in Mexico
During heightened violence in 2013, a video was released showing Gomez blaming the government, rival drug cartels, and citizen self-defense forces for violence in Michoacan.
He claimed that if the government improved law enforcement, the Knights Templar would “lower our weapons and step aside,” since they only “carry weapons to defend our state from the Zetas and CNJG [Jalisco Cartel – New Generation].”
The video is a classic example of the kind of morality the Knights Templar frequently invoked as justification for their existence and actions, which Gomez later reasserted in December 2013 during an interview with Fox World News.
La Tuta Divides Up Estate of Deceased Businessman
Following the death of local businessman Luis Miguel Estefan in August 2014, a video was released showing Gomez dividing up the man’s inheritance among five individuals, including Estefan’s wife and two brothers. Among the properties were a restaurant, hotel, and four houses.
In the video, after adjudicating the proceedings, Gomez stated that Estefan’s relatives must make a “donation” of over $450,000 to the Knights Templar.
The video was a stark demonstration of the kinds of social and judicial roles the Knights Templar had taken on in Michoacan, and La Tuta’s self-conception as a benevolent arbiter.
SEE ALSO: La Tuta Profile
La Tuta Meets With Michoacan Vigilante Leader
In August 2014, a video from 2013 surfaced of Gomez meeting with Carlos Sierra Santana, a representative of another criminal group based in Michoacan, the Viagras. Gomez threatened Santana and warned him about staying active in Knight Templar territory.
Present at the meeting was Luis Antonio Torres, alias “El Americano,” who had recently been named a leader of the government-organized “Rural Defense Forces” in Michoacan. The video further fueled rumors that El Americano was using the self-defense militias as a cover for his criminal activity, and also raised concerns over the government’s ability to control the chaotic security situation in Michoacan and Guerrero.
La Tuta Vows to Never Surrender
In October 2014, Gomez released a fiery rant at a time when Mexican security forces and local self-defense militias had been rolling back the Knights Templar. In his speech, Gomez repented for crimes he had committed, but said he would only “pay [for my crimes] before God.” Indeed, he vowed to continue his criminal activities and said he would never stop his resistance against Mexican security forces.
La Tuta Releases His Final Audio Recording
In early February, Gomez released what he called the last audio recording that he would ever make. In the recording, he remained defiant, criticizing his opponents in the self-defense forces and government, as well as rival criminal organizations. He also reiterated many of his justifications for the existence of the Knights Templar and their activities in Michoacan.
Given that Gomez explicitly labeled this recording his last one ever, it is worth questioning whether or not he felt the net closing around him, and if he knew that his capture was imminent.