Can Mexico Break Knights Templar’s Hold on Michoacan Port?

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The Mexican government has ordered federal troops to seize control of the Pacific coast port and Knights Templar stronghold Lazaro Cardenas, illustrating the difficulty authorities face fighting a criminal organization that has co-opted much of Michoacan state.

On November 4, the government announced the navy, army and federal police would take over security in Lazaro Cardenas, one of Mexico’s busiest sea ports, reported Animal Politico. The forces are combining to protect the port’s operations, replacing the local police force, which was disarmed and taken out of action while awaiting further training.

Lazaro Cardenas, in the embattled Michoacan state, has become a “gold mine” for the Knights Templar, who control much of the activity within the port, reported Milenio. The group “taxes” products passing through the port, and combines money laundering with more than two dozen other activities including selling pirated DVDs and brand-name clothing, mineral exportation, drug trafficking and extortion of businesses operating in and around the port.

InSight Crime Analysis

For years, Lazaro Cardenas has been a vital link in drug trafficking networks, functioning as a major entry point for drugs and precursor chemicals. The port is also a source of valuable information for local criminal organizations, which extort both the local and international businesses that operate there.

This criminal jewel is currently in the hands of the Knights Templar, whose violent campaigns against the state, rival traffickers and vigilante “self-defense” forces have left Michoacan state close to ungovernable and raised fears of a “narco-insurgency.” 

SEE ALSO: Knights Templar Profile

The assault by the federal forces on Lazaro Cardenas appears to be an attempt to strike at the Knights in their economic hub, a move likely inspired by the hope that if the authorities can break their grip there then it will begin to loosen elsewhere in the state.

However, as illustrated by the fact the federal forces felt they had to bypass the local police to operate, the Knights’ influence in the region runs deep and will not be easily uprooted. The government has tried and failed to retake Lazaro Cardenas in the past, and there is no reason to believe anything will be different this time. The Knights’ influence extends throughout the local economy, and the “gold mine” of the port, and indeed of Michoacan, is not something they will readily walk away from.

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