As the Mexican Drug War rages on, one of the more bizarre developments is the apparent elevation to folk sainthood of Nozario Moreno. Moreno, leader of now defunct Michoacán cartel La Familia, was gunned down by Mexican Federales in the winter of 2010 after a meteoric ascension to El Narco infamy that was equal parts Tony Montana, Padre Pio, and Jason Voorhees. Little noticed as yet north of the border, the Caballeros Templarios, or Knights Templar, remain a small player in the ongoing drug war compared to the larger cartels. But they do seem to read a fair amount of their own press, even going so far as to call for a truce during Pope Benedict’s visit in the Spring of 2012, and an offer to President Calderón’s government to give up on narcotrafficking if Calderón would commit to taking better care of the Caballeros’s home state of Michoacán. Calderón, of course, rejected the deal.
What exactly the Caballeros Templarios are is difficult to pin down as their activities range from cultic activities like veneration of fallen El Narco folk heroes, to overt political displays with a populist, traditionally Latin American leftist bent. Their criminal bailiwick, for the most part, is standard cartel fare: moving a lot of meth, coke, and heroin through their territory; kidnapping; extortion; and extreme violence. The difference is that when the Caballeros Templarios sally forth, they do so with an occult fervor and a prayer to the “narco-saint” Jesus Malverde joined to their populist political agenda which is disseminated by large signs scrawled with cogent criticisms of the Mexican Government that appear anonymously throughout their territory. Unlike any other politically active new religious movement, however, when their enemy cartels fail to meet their standards of piety, they butcher them mercilessly.
And of course, they’re still a young organization so it’s anyone’s guess where they’ll go from here. They are, however, unlikely to be outweirded by the other players in the Mexican Drug War any time soon.