Crime and Violence

Authorities confirm killing of Knights Templar leader “El Chayo”

Nazario "El Chayo" Moreno González. Photo: Excélsior.
Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno González. Photo: Excélsior.

03/10/14 — Mexico’s federal government has confirmed the death of Nazario Moreno González, “El Chayo,” one of the alleged leaders of the notorious Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios) criminal organization. El Chayo (44) was killed during a morning shootout on Sunday, March 9, outside the town of Tumbiscatío in western Michoacán. Mexican military forces led the operation in a coordinated effort with Mexico’s Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN), the Secretary of the Navy (Secretaría de Marina-Armada, SEMAR), and the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, SEDENA). Authorities also used anonymous tips and “constant reports” from locals who had called in with information about El Chayo’s whereabouts, said Monte Alejandro Rubido, the executive secretary for Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema de Seguridad Nacional Pública, SSNP).

El Chayo’s death puts to rest the rumors that he was still alive. The Mexican government had reported in December 2010 that federal forces had killed the kingpin in a shootout in Michoacán. However, they were unable to produce the body to prove his death, which some reports accredited to the belief that members of the Knights Templar had allegedly recovered the body before federal authorities could. Regardless, since the announcement of his death under former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), many have speculated that El Chayo was still alive and in hiding. As reported in La Crónica de Hoy, the commissioner for Michoacán’s Comprehensive Security and Development (Seguridad y Desarrollo Integra), Alfredo Castillo Cervantes admitted that “’the main beneficiary of his anonymity was [El Chayo]’ because he was still able to lead the criminal organization that he had been operating in [Michoacán] since 2006.” Castillo was referring to El Chayo’s control over the Knights Templar, a group that had splintered from La Familia Michoacana cartel in 2010, which itself had broken away from the Zetas criminal organization in 2006. El Chayo was one of the four remaining leaders of the Knights Templar that federal forces and self-defense groups have been targeting recently. Although alleged leaders Servando “La Tuta” Gómez Martínez and Enrique “El Kiki” Plancare Solís are still unaccounted for, coordinated efforts have now taken down El Chayo and Dionicio “El Tío” Ioya Plancarte, who was arrested on January 27 of this year. Read more about these efforts in Michoacán here.

Despite the rumors and speculation of misinformation initially reported in 2010, El Chayo’s confirmed takedown this time has been applauded by many, and seen as another significant strike by the Peña Nieto administration against drug trafficking and criminal organizations in Mexico. It comes just three weeks after federal forces arrested Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel and one of the world’s most wanted drug traffickers. Former President Felipe Calderón acknowledged President Peña Nieto on Twitter, saying, “Congratulations to @gobrep [Peña Nieto’s Twitter alias] for the takedown of Nazario Moreno.” For his part, Commissioner Castillo added that it was “an important strike by the Peña Nieto administration against organized crime.”


Fausset, Richard. “Drug kingpin is really dead this time, Mexican officials say.” Los Angeles Times. March 9, 2014. 

24 Horas. “Muerte de ‘El Chayo’, duro golpe de Peña contra el narco: Castillo.” Vanguardia. March 10, 2014.

AFP. “Calderón se congratula por abatimiento de capo mexicano que su gobierno dio por muerto.” Terra Noticias. March 10, 2014.

EFE. “’El Chayo’ utilizó como coartada que lo dieran por muerto: Castillo.” La Crónica de Hoy. March 10, 2014. 

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