The bodies were accompanied by notes from the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), a Familia offshoot connected to Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta.” The notes accused the dead of supporting Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias “El Chango,” who heads the portion of the group still calling itself the Familia.
The first nine bodies were discovered early Saturday morning in the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, which is a key territory for importing cocaine and methamphetamine precursor chemicals. Nine more bodies were later discovered at points in the state’s northern region, which borders the state of Jalisco.
The Knights Templar first announced their existence in March. The split between Mendez and Gomez is the result of the December killing of Familia boss Nazario Moreno, alias “El Chayo,” whose presence helped keep the peace between the two.
Michoacan is valuable both as a trafficking route from the Pacific to Mexico City and the nation’s populous central region, as well as for the production of heroin and marijuana. The Familia have earned notoriety for their aggressive extortion of local businesses to supplement their income.