Vigilantes Take Michoacán, Capture Knights Templar Leader

A vigilante, or member of the community police, stands on a barricade at the periphery of Apatzingan, in Michoacan state, February 8, 2014. Representatives of the community police entered Apatzingan, considered the main square of the cartel of the Knights Templar, as they were guarded by the police officers and the army. The vigilantes built barricades around the city to prevent the escape of members of the criminal group, according to local media. Reuters

Vigilante groups in the state of Michoacán have taken over the city of Apatzingan, considered for years as the bastion of Knights Templar activities. The group also captured Antonio Magaña Panto, alias “El Tony”,  cousin of Enrique “Kike” Plancarte and half-brother of Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno, founders of the Knights Templar cartel. The vigilante group recognized the significance of capturing the city, however, they have emphasized that they are not going to stop their advance. 

Vigilante leader and spokesperson Estanislao Beltrán has revealed that Apatzingan was only one of several targets selected by the group. "Our main objective was to clean out the 113 municiplaities of the state. We wil not return to work, because we have not captured any of the leaders of the Knights Templar Cartel, and they will reorganize themselves. We cannot take even one step back," he said. Beltrán spoke of a new strategy undertaken by the vigilante groups in their efforts.

"They have control of the operation, that's what we agree upon. We are made up of a mixture of federal, military and state police. This is an ew strategy, we shall see up til what point it remains secure," Beltrán continued. "This is the first time that we are acting in co-ordination with the govern: before they supported us, but now we will be in this together, but we need results, the people demand results." The groups entry into Apatzingán was indeed supported by federal troops. 

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Oscar Lopez is a Brooklyn-based writer. Originally from Mexico, Oscar moved with his family to Australia in 2000. Graduating from the University of Melbourne in 2011 with a BA (Honors) Oscar was awarded the Keith Macartney Scholarship for the Arts, the Louise Homfrey Award and the Hannah Barry Memorial Award. As well as reporting for Latin Times, Oscar's writng has been featured in Newsweek, New York Magazine ( and Musee Magazine.