01/20/14 — As part of the federal government’s attempt to retake control and provide security to southern Michoacán, an ongoing operation has led to the arrest of multiple high-ranking members of the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) criminal organization. The most recent arrest was that of suspect Jesús Vázquez Macias, known as “El Toro,” who was detained along with two others in Caleta de Campos, a town in Lázaro Cárdenas in the state’s Tierra Caliente region. Authorities seized four large weapons, 23 cartridges, a grenade, cell phones, and drugs, though no shots were exchanged during the capture. El Toro is considered one of the most violent members of the Knights Templar, and has been identified as one of the leaders of the cartel by varying media reports. However, the self-defense groups (grupos de autodefensa) in the area refer to him instead as a top cartel hit man and enforcer.
Just days before El Toro’s arrest, another Knights Templar leader, Joaquín “El Allegretti” Negrete, was detained on January 15 by members of the Mexican Army, along with Jorge Fabián Quesada Andrade, also a presumed member of the cartel. Authorities seized a reported stolen vehicle, two magazines for high-powered firearms, and 20 shotgun cartridges. El Allegretti was allegedly in charge of the La Huacana zone, where reports indicate he “maintained control of the plaza.” According to the Executive Secretary of the National System of Public Security (Secretario Ejecutivo del Seistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP), Monte Alejandro Rubido García, who announced the arrests, El Allegretti is responsible for the killing of four civilians and seven police in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán in 2013.
El Toro’s and El Allegretti’s arrests come just one week after additional military troops and police were brought into Michoacán’s Tierra Caliente region to quell the outbreak of violence between organized crime, community self-defense groups, and security forces. Since the federal operation to reestablish order began, SESNSP’s Rubido García reports that 38 members of organized crime have been arrested, including the two Knights Templar leaders. In addition, the Federal Police have now taken control of security duties in all 27 municipalities the federal operation had targeted in the Tierra Caliente region. Proceso writes that Rubido García also highlighted that the first week under the new operation strategy in Michoacán led to “not one violent incident,” and that the area’s commercial business activities have returned to normal.
Read more about the public insecurity in Michoacán in the recent Justice in Mexico post.