Mar 15, 2011 | 19:47 GMT

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Mexico Security Memo: March 15, 2011

Mexico Security Memo

La Resistencia

Victor Torres Garcia, thought to be the head of the Mexican organized crime group La Resistencia, was captured Feb. 28 by federal forces in Uruapan, Michoacan state. His arrest made the news on both sides of the border, but the group he reportedly led has received scant coverage in open-source media, and we thought it time to shed a little light on the organization. Though little known outside of Mexico, La Resistencia is a long-established criminal group based in Tepito, a 36-block barrio just north of downtown Mexico City. Tepito is considered the heart of the metropolitan area's criminal community and a mecca for cult followers of Santa Muerte, the "saint of death." La Resistencia is not a drug trafficking organization but a large and local organized crime group that kept its distance from the major drug cartel operations until about 2008. It was formed in Tepito in the 1980s as a coalition of long-standing criminal groups and today it engages in a full range of criminal enterprises, from assassinations and illegal weapons sales to theft and CD/DVD piracy. La Resistencia is the go-to organization for anyone who needs some illegal deed accomplished in its area of operations, and a STRATFOR source says businessmen, politicians and corrupt officials have been using the group's criminal services for generations. Various mayors, police chiefs and presidents have tried to clean up Tepito and all have failed for a variety of reasons — mainly lack of institutional tenacity. When La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) began operating in Mexico City around 2008, the denizens of Tepito took notice. The cartels wanted to tap into the drug market in the metropolitan area and found that it was easier to ally with La Resistencia and cooperate with the Tepito "crime union" than attempt to muscle in on the action. The local La Resistencia crime bosses allowed LFM and BLO into their areas but did not relinquish the group's autonomy or control or become part of either cartel, nor did La Resistencia take on the characteristics of a drug trafficking organization. Although localized, La Resistencia has become a powerful criminal organization in its own right and holds a unique position tangential to the cartels. Still, STRATFOR is not yet convinced that La Resistencia plays a major supporting role in the drug war in Mexico. Given its strength, unique function and location, the group may be relevant to analytical discussions of the conflict, and we will continue to examine its potential connections to the cartels.

The Knights Templar

On March 10 it was reported that "narcomantas," banners containing a message from drug cartels, were hung in the Michoacan cities of Morelia, Zitacuaro and Apatzingan proclaiming that a new cartel had formed to replace the disbanded LFM. The banners stated that the new group, calling itself the Knights Templar, would serve the residents of Michoacan as "guardians" committed to preserving order, preventing kidnapping, robbery and extortion, and protecting the state from encroachment by rival cartels. When La Familia itself came on the scene, it was a vigilante group with the stated purpose of protecting the people of Michoacan against the cartels — until it began to capitalize on revenues from synthetic drug production and became a cartel itself. LFM's founding leader was Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, a messianic figure who liberally mixed his religious beliefs with his organizational philosophies. Given the name of the new group — Knights Templar, an order of religious warriors during the Crusades — and LFM's pseudo-Christian doctrines, it is highly likely that the Knights Templar is a new manifestation of La Familia. If so, a strong leader will be necessary to pull LFM's fractured cells back into a cohesive organization. And because there is the strong likelihood that the group will resume La Familia's core operations, including its methamphetamine "super labs," STRATFOR will be paying close attention to this new organization. (click here to view interactive map)

March 7

  • Soldiers and federal police arrested the deputy operations director of municipal police in San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, Oaxaca state, for alleged links to Los Zetas. Six other police officers were also arrested in the raid.
  • Federal police officers arrested Marcos Carmona Hernandez, the suspected leader of Los Zetas, in Oaxaca state.
  • Eighteen people were killed during a firefight between two suspected criminal groups in Abasolo, Tamaulipas state.

March 8

  • Soldiers in China, Nuevo Leon state, discovered two mutilated bodies with their heads severed. The heads had been skinned, burned and placed on two messages left by suspected members of an unidentified drug cartel. The content of the messages was not reported.
  • Unidentified gunmen opened fire at a nightclub in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, killing three people and injuring eight others.
  • Police discovered a decapitated body inside an abandoned vehicle in the Estado de Mexico neighborhood of Naucalpan, Mexico state. A message attributing the crime to "The Hand with Eyes" was found near the body.
  • Unidentified people abandoned the dismembered body of an unidentified man approximately 50 meters (160 feet) from the Costera Miguel Aleman area of Acapulco, Guerrero state.

March 9

  • Federal police announced the arrest of suspected Los Zetas financier Mario Jimenez Perez, aka "El Mayito." Jimenez Perez is believed to be the finance chief for Los Zetas in San Luis Potosi state.
  • Unidentified gunmen attacked a police station in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, with firearms and a grenade. Two vehicles were damaged in the attack, but no injuries were reported.
  • Soldiers opened fire on a group of unidentified gunmen in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, killing one. Later, several gunmen kidnapped an injured man receiving treatment for a gunshot wound at an aid station. After the kidnapping, roadblocks were reported in the municipalities of Guadalupe, Juarez and Apodaca.
  • Federal police announced the arrests on March 4 of six suspected members of the criminal group La Resistencia at a camp located near San Jeronimo, Jalisco state, Mexican media reported.
  • Federal police officers arrested Rodolfo Rodriguez Carranza, chief of guards at the Social Re-Adaptation Center in Durango, Durango state. Rodriguez Carranza was reportedly responsible for allowing the entry of firearms and drugs into the facility. A riot had occurred earlier in the day, resulting in the death of a prisoner.

March 10

  • Banners announcing the formation of a suspected drug cartel identified as the Knights Templar were found in the Michoacan cities of Morelia, Apatzingan and Zitacuaro. The signs said the new group would take over the responsibilities of LFM.
  • Soldiers shot and killed three unidentified gunmen after a car chase in the Azteca neighborhood of San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state.
  • Military authorities announced the seizure of approximately 4.5 tons of marijuana from a ship near Puerto Libertad, Sonora state. The seizure occurred at an unspecified date.
  • The body of the police director of Santiago Tangamandapio, Michoacan state, was found next to his abandoned vehicle by farm laborers near Cienega de Chapala. The director had been shot three times in the chest and once in the head.

March 11

  • Police found the dismembered body of a woman in Allende, Nuevo Leon state. A message near the victim attributed the crime to an unidentified drug cartel, and the cartel's initials had been carved into her torso.
  • Several roadblocks set up by gunmen using stolen vehicles were reported in the municipalities of Apodaca and San Nicolas, Nuevo Leon state. The roadblocks began after an attack on a police patrol car that left one police officer dead and another injured.
  • A group of gunmen kidnapped six federal police officers in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state. The officers' two abandoned vehicles were later found.
  • A Mexican university professor from Northern Arizona University was reportedly kidnapped in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

March 12

  • Soldiers in San Juan del Rio, Durango state, freed two kidnap victims held at a local residence. Twenty-eight firearms and 1,919 rounds of ammunition were seized during the raid.
  • A group of gunmen entered a house in the Tierra y Libertad neighborhood of Chihuahua, Chihuahua state, and executed seven people attending a party.

March 13

  • Two of the federal police officers kidnapped on March 11 in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon state, were found in southern Monterrey. The officers had apparently been beaten during their kidnapping.
  • The bodies of two decapitated men were found near the Autopista del Sol highway in Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  • A banner allegedly signed by Los Zetas and warning other cartels against preventing their entry into Cuautla, Morelos state, was found in the Tepeyac neighborhood of Cuautla.

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