Updated 06:31 PM EDT, Thu, Aug 22, 2019

Knights Templar Cartel: Mexico's 'Cult Cartel' -- A Bloody, Violent Meth-Trafficking Secret Narco Society

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With the continual flux of alliances and rivalries, figuring out the power structures of the Mexican cartels can get just a bit confusing. We're taking a look at the Mexico cartels, faction by faction, to see just what is happening right underneath our nation's nose.

First up in the series was Los Zetas. Then came Sinaloa and the Gulf Cartel.

And now? Well, it's Knights Templar Cartel's turn under the microscope.

Drug Cartel: Knights Templar Cartel -- Guard of Michoacán, or Los Caballeros Templarios Guardia Michoacana. Knights Templar is Mexican cartel composed of former members of the now-defunct La Familia Michoacana drug cartel.

Location: Based in the Mexican state of Michoacán, with territory all over the state of Michoacán, Guerrero and Morelos.

Current Leaders: Servando Gomez Martinez, or "La Tuta," who started the group, and Martínez's partners in La Familia Cartel: Nazario Moreno González, José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Enrique Plancarte Solís and Dionicio Loya Plancarte,

History: Knights Templar is an offshoot of the La Familia Michoacana drug cartel based in the Mexican state of Michoacán. What's a bit unique about the Knights Templar is that the group is quite mysterious, in addition to being incredibly violent.

After the death of Nazario Moreno González, who was the leader of the La Familia Michoacana cartel, the other La Familia cartel leaders -- Enrique Plancarte Solís and Servando Gómez Martínez -- formed an offshoot of La Familia, which became Knights Templar.

The cartel is based on a cult-like regime, with leaders deciding that a religious discipline was a useful tool to keep members in line. And much like their original cartel group, the Knights claim to be helping the Michoacán community, despite their drug trafficking crimes -- which include grisly murders and public displays of terror.

They even went so far as to announce their presence in a ceremonial way, in which the group hung more than 40 narcomanteles, or drug-cartel banners, across the state with a message promising security.

"Our commitment is to safeguard order, avoid robberies, kidnapping, extortion, and to shield the state from rival organizations," the banners stated.

A week later, their first victim was hanged from an overpass, along with a note claiming that he was a kidnapper.

A number of times seized by officials lead investigators to believe that the group is much like a cult, with bizarre rituals, hooded tunics, metal helmets, and a Templar rule book.

Claiming that they draw inspiration from medieval Christian warriors, the Knights Templar consider their cartel's murders to be honor killings, and are restricted to what they consider gentleman-like behavior.

In a strange twist, the Knights Templar cartel rounds up drug users and enrolls them in the organization's rehabilitation centers, in which the process of treatment is closely monitored by the cartel leaders. The program also has a strong religious component.

According to the rules of the group, the Templars can not take drugs. However, they run one of the biggest methamphetamines traffic routes to the United States.

Following that secret society mentality, any disclosure of the inside activities of the Knights Templar will result in the death of the person and their whole family.

Power Structure: The Knights Templar have an initiation ritual that includes dressing up like knights from the Middle Ages and performing blood pacts. Religion, rules, and strict monitoring are used to keep members in line, as are gruesome acts of violence on rivals or those deemed worth of punishment.

The cartel indoctrinates its operatives to “fight and die” for “the cartel.” The cartel's armed wing is called La Resistencia, and they have taken full control of the now-extinct La Familia Michoacana operations. The Templars do not shy away from violence; rather, they justify their killings based on honor.

Alliances:
Gulf Cartel
Beltran-Leyva

Rivalries:
Jalisco New Generation Cartel
Los Zetas
Independent Civilian Vigilante and Militia groups
Sinaloa Cartel

Crimes:
Drug trafficking
Money laundering
Kidnapping
Racketeering
Murder
Arms trafficking
Robbery
Assault
Counterfeiting

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