Knights Templar-Linked Mexico Mayor Arrested for Murder, Extortion

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A mayor in Mexico’s southwestern Michoacan state has been accused of murder, extortion and working with the Knights Templar, in a case highlighting the criminal group’s infiltration into the murky world of Michoacan politics.

On August 14, authorities arrested Huetamo Mayor Dalia Santana Pineda on homicide charges and for allegedly extorting local government employees and businesses, reported La Jornada.

According to the Michoacan Attorney General’s Office, in April 2013 Santana Pineda sent a member of the Knights Templar to kill a man with whom she had a personal dispute. The government body also said she required municipal employees to pay her up to 20 percent of their salaries — money that ended up in the coffers of the Knights Templar, reported the AFP.

Santana Pineda allegedly had close ties to former interim Michoacan Governor Jesus Reyna Garcia, who was also arrested for colluding with the criminal group, reported El Informador.

Last week, authorities arrested Santana Pineda’s husband, who has been pointed to as a local Knights Templar leader.

Insight Crime Analysis

Since their emergence in 2011, the Knights Templar have built a network of government support in Michoacan. Numerous public figures have been arrested for collaborating with the criminal group.

Two Michoacan mayors were arrested and accused of a litany of crimes including ties to the Knights Templar in April 2014. The following month, former interim Governor Garcia was sent to federal prison on similar charges. In June, Fausto Vallejo, the governor of the beleaguered state, stepped down — purportedly for health reasons — four days after a photo of his son Rodrigo meeting with Knights Templar leader Servando Gomez Martinez, alias “La Tuta,” surfaced. After a video of Rodrigo Vallejo meeting with “La Tuta” also appeared, the governor’s son was arrested.

SEE ALSO: Knights Templar Profile

Although accusations of local government officials collaborating with the Knights Templar are nothing new, the recent case stands out because of the severity of the charges. It is possible that some public figures entangled with the Knights were forced to do so for their safety — a dilemma often faced by local government officials in organized crime-controlled regions. However, the accusations against Santana Pineda indicate she was directly involved with the Knights, and had significant sway with the group. 

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