Mexico Security Memo: The Knights Templar's Possible Foray into Monterrey

3 MINS READOct 3, 2012 | 10:18 GMT

Several narcomantas appeared Oct. 1 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, announcing the arrival of the Knights Templar, a criminal organization originally from Michoacan state. Authorities have not disclosed the contents of the messages, but media reports suggest they also contain threats against Los Zetas, who have fought the Gulf cartel and its affiliate groups for control of the city since 2010. The messages may have some credence: Recently, other narcomantas in nearby states officially announced an alliance between the Gulf cartel and the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar most likely have used Monterrey as a drug-trafficking corridor — they have been Gulf cartel affiliates ever since they broke from their parent group, La Familia Michoacana. But the appearance of messages ostensibly authored by the Knights Templar is highly anomalous. If the Knights Templar are in fact active in Monterrey, inter-cartel violence will almost certainly increase.

Monterrey is an important transit hub for drug trafficking, and as such, it has long been a battleground for competing drug cartels. The Knights Templar's affiliation with the Gulf cartel probably enabled them to move their product through northeast Mexico, including Monterrey, but there has never been any reported propaganda or violence attributed to the Knights Templar in the region.

Mexico Security Memo: The Knights Templar's Possible Foray into Monterrey

Mexico Security Memo: The Knights Templar's Possible Foray into Monterrey

However, their arrival in Monterrey would not be wholly unexpected. Recently, several leaders of some of the Knights Templar's allied groups in northeast Mexico have been arrested. Among them are Jorge Eduardo "El Coss" Costilla Sanchez, top leader of the Gulf cartel, and Ivan "El Taliban" Velazquez Caballero, a dissident Los Zetas leader recently allied with the Gulf cartel and the Knights Templar. These arrests have likely, albeit temporarily, weakened their allies' ability to defend against Los Zetas encroachments. However, it is unclear whether the Knights Templar's alleged arrival in Monterrey was on its own volition or at the behest of external organization, such as the Sinaloa Federation.

If the Sinaloa Federation directed the Knights Templar to combat Los Zetas in Monterrey, this would validate an unconfirmed report that the Sinaloa Federation is parting ways with its former enforcer group, Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion. Over the past year, while the Knights Templar remained in central Mexico, Sinaloa has used Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion to combat its rivals in such areas as Veracruz, Veracruz state; Cancun, Quintana Roo state; and Acapulco, Guerrero state. But now that they, and not the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion, are purportedly in Monterrey, Sinaloa would appear to have turned to another affiliate enforcer group. However, given the significant operational capabilities of Knights Templar they could also be acting on their own.

In any case, the arrival of the Knights Templar in Monterrey would lead to increased violence in the city. Already there are three other groups vying for control of the city: Los Zetas, the Gulf cartel and factions of Los Zetas who followed Velazquez to war against Zetas leader Miguel "Z-40" Trevino Morales. Los Zetas naturally would counter any such incursion, though notably it may become increasingly difficult to accurately attribute violence to specific groups.

Indeed, Los Zetas would use all their available resources to defend Monterrey, leading to levels of violence like those of early 2012. Valuable as it for drug transportation, money laundering, and other criminal enterprises, Monterrey is also key stop on the way to Nuevo Laredo, Los Zetas' most valued plaza. The more credible Los Zetas consider the threat posed by the Knights Templar, the more violently they will respond.

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