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Mexico: Mayor Colluding with Cartel Arrested, but Knights Templar Top Dog Still on the Loose

By: María Gabriela Díaz - Apr 29, 2014, 12:11 pm

EspañolMayor of Lázaro Cárdenas municipality, Mexico, Arquímides Oseguera, was detained yesterday for allegedly having ties with Servando Gómez Martínez —  also known as “La Tuta” — leader of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar), the biggest drug cartel in Michoacán state. The arrest of public officials by the office of Mexico’s attorney general is part of a wider operation that attempts to finally reestablish order in the western state of Mexico, regain the trust in lost institutions, and win the battle against drug cartels.

Oseguera faces accusations of kidnapping and extortion, according to the statements made by Alfredo Castillo, Michoacán security commissioner, during a press conference.

“On Monday morning, the general justice ombudsman detained Lázaro Cárdenas Mayor, Arquímides Oseguera, for his alleged ties with the leader of the criminal organization, as well as his participation in the crimes of kidnapping, and extortion,” the commissioner noted.

https://twitter.com/MichoacanPGJ/status/460839359390838784/

On Monday afternoon, Omar Soto Gil, municipal treasurer from Lázaro Cárdenas, was also arrested for complicity.

Oseguera is the latest addition in a series of statesmen who have been linked to Mexico’s organized crime. He’s the second mayor detained in the last 15 days for having ties with drug cartels. The first one was Uriel Chávez, mayor of Apatzingan state, who was arrested on April 16. Former interim governor of Michoacán, Jesús Reyna García, was also put behind bars earlier this month for the same crimes. That came after a video of him talking with “La Tuta” was leaked through the internet.

Oseguera was elected in 2012 as mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, a municipality with one of the most important ports in Mexico’s Pacific Coast, and his tenure would have ended next year.

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Arquímides Oseguera, Mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas municipality. Source: Lázaro Cárdenas town municipality.

Authorities believe that the Knights Templar used this port for the illegal trade of minerals, and served as a transit point for drug-trafficking to Central America. From late 2013, federal troops have taken over the port and the security of the municipality, since the police corruption seemed to be increasing. Lázaro Cárdenas was not the only place that the military seized; Apatzingan, which was governed by Chávez, was also militarized.

These detentions are part of a bigger operation led by the Commission for Security and Integral Development for Michoacán state, which includes the purge and renovation of Michoacán’s police force.

“The State Department for Public Security is undergoing a restructuring process so that its norms, infrastructure, equipment, and public officials’ capabilities can be strengthened, and be up to the standards of citizen demands,” Carlos Hugo Castellano Becerra, secretary for public security in Michoacán, stated during a press conference last Thursday.

The arrests come in the midst of a spiral of violence that has shaken Michoacán state during the the last 14 months. Mexican anti-cartel vigilantes — also called self-defense groups — have seized control of several municipalities in the state in an attempt to eliminate the famous Knights Templar drug cartel. Vigilantes were originally created to perform the task that the security forces were not.

Since Michoacán authorities weren’t able to establish order and settle the dispute between both parties, federal authorities had to intervene and regain control of the area. Vigilantes agreed to a demobilization process —  that started yesterday and will conclude on May 10 —  and were invited by President Enrique Peña Nieto to join the state security forces, or otherwise return to their previous jobs.

Even though security forces have been able to capture three out of four leaders of the cartel, top dog Servando Gómez Martínez “La Tuta” remains on the loose.

Rodolfo Sosa Cordero, representative of the organization México Libertario (Mexican Libertarian) remains skeptical whether these arrests will be suffice

“There’s so much corruption,” he says, “that you never know if these people are arrested because they are indeed criminals, or because they are not willing to become part of the drug cartels.”

Contrary to what many may believe, for Cordero, the real business of organized crime is not drug trafficking, but the violence that it generates.

“Drug legalization won’t change a thing, their main business is violence: extortion, kidnapping, robberies, etc.”

The Mexico Libertario spokesman also doesn’t agree with disarming the vigilantes. On the contrary, he believes that self-defense is the last resource Mexicans have left in front of organized crime:

“The government is supposed to exercise a monopoly on violence, it’s its reason of being. The social contract then implies that you pay taxes, under the condition that the state protects your life and your property against the violent ones. The reality in Mexico, however, is that the organized crime is in the same government, which extorts its citizens to guarantee their safety. They are charging for the service they are supposed to be providing in the first place. The worst part is not only that they are not doing that task, but that they are working alongside the gangs. This way, we, as citizens, are defenseless.”

In this regard, Cordero views self-defense as the only way to stop the violence — “with armed civilians, where their right to defend their own lives is respected.”

Despite the attempts to restore the rule of law in Michoacán, Cordero still thinks they won’t change the status quo.

“For now, I don’t believe in them [the efforts]. Why would I believe that the state can protect me, if it’s not doing it now, and it won’t be able to do so in the near future? The state has proved to be not only useless, but also corrupt.”

María Gabriela Díaz María Gabriela Díaz

María Gabriela Díaz reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and led the PanAm Post internship program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a focus in international affairs.