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Mexico: Templario Operative Killed, Secrets Spilled

Michoacán state police on Sept. 12 found the body of a brother of Servando Gómez Martínez AKA “La Tuta— leader of the notorious Knights Templar cartel and Mexico’s most wanted drug lord. Aquiles Gómez Martínez was found dead of a gunshot wound at his home in the Pacific port city of Lázaro Cárdenas. A nine mm pistol, two ammunition clips and a box containing 50 bullets were also found at the residence. Prosecutors had identified him and two other purported brothers of “La Tuta,” Flavio and Luis Felipe Gómez Martínez, as chief operatives of Los Caballeros Templarios. (EFE, Sept. 19)

Three days after the find, a video was posted on the website of the MVS radio network, showing two of Mexico’s most prominent journalists meeting with La Tuta, holding an spirited and amicable coversation with him — and finally accepting a pile of cash. One of the journalists, Eliseo Caballero Ramírez, was until the day the video surfaced the Michoacán correspondent for Mexico’s giant Televisa network, and had also worked for MundoFox, part-owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox. Caballero told MVS radio that he was forced to attend the meeting with La Tuta against his will. But the images of Caballero and another journalist, José Luis Diaz of the Esquema news agency, accepting pay-offs — and then pleading for more — was too much for Televisa, which fired Caballero.  “Our audience can rest assured that there is no place in this organization for those who violate the trust and hurt the credibility that the public bestows on Televisa News every day,” a statement from the network said.

La Tuta complains in the video that he was losing a public relations battle with Michoacán’s anti-narco “community police” movement. Caballero responds: “I think you need a press strategy… And to avoid them gaining more attention, send out messages, send e-mail, send photos, send out whatever.” La Tuta replied that he was doing his best, and pointed to an interview he gave to the MundoFox network, aired in Spanish last December in the US. Caballero notes that the MundoFox correspondent that La Tuta spoke to, Rolando Nichols, was staying in his home.

This is the latest in a series of such revelations. At least half a dozen videos have been leaked of clandestine meetings between La Tuta and various politicians, including the son of former Michoacán Gov. Fausto Vallejo, and the mayor of Lázaro Cárdenas, and the mayors the towns of Patzcuaro and Huetamo.

In 2012, Nicaraguan police halted six vans bearing with the Televisa logo near the border with Honduras and arrested 18 Mexicans after seizing some $9 million in cash hidden in the vehicles. The Mexicans were later given prison terms for money laundering, although the majority were allowed to complete the terms in their home country. Prosecutors in Nicaragua failed to prove the involvement of Televisa executives, and the network denied owning the vans.

Meanwhile, violence continues in Michoacán. The slain bodies of six people bearing gunshot wounds were found near a campus of the University of San Nicolas de Hidalgo in the city of Uruapan Sept. 19. Authorities said they believe the individuals were killed elsewhere and their bodies dumped at the intersection where they were discovered. One individual was found alive at that same location and is currently being treated at a local hospital.

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