La Familia Michoacana (The Michoacán Family) an its transformation into Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar)

La Familia Michoacan (LFM) was a Mexican drug cartel and organized crime syndicate based in the Mexican state of Michoacán. It is defunct today, but as is almost always the case, it morphed into something else, and that’s the point of this particular blog post.

LFM was founded by Carlos Rosales Mendoza primarily by stepping on the backs of ranchers and legitimate agricultural interests in Michoacán.  If they supported and protected the cartel, it would offer them protection — from the cartel. It’s a refrain as old as time.

Mendoza was replaced by Nazario Moreno (El Mas Loco) Gonzales, who preached his organization’s divine right to eliminate its competition. He carried a “Bible” of his sayings and insisted that his traffickers and hitmen avoid using the narcotics they produced and sold. They were methamphetamine cooks who made their goods in Michoacán.

The Mexican government targeted LFM, in particular, both because they hadn’t paid enough in kickbacks and because they were exceptionally violent to the locals, and politically dominating the landscape with bribes when possible and violence when that didn’t work — not an uncommon thing in Mexico, but not kicking up to Mexico City didn’t win them, friends.

Nazario Moreno Gonzales was reportedly killed several times. Reliable sources demonstrated that MEXGOV missed and eventually he simply took what money he had and left the narco stage.

The cartel always had a religious undercurrent, with its assassinations and beheadings being referred to internally as, “divine justice. It funded the New Jerusalem Movement (a Swedish Church) in Mexico. The cartel’s Bible (mentioned above) consisted of insurgent peasant slogans, evangelical self-help advice, and some of the work of John Eldredge (book: Wild at Heart), blended together. If all of this sounds weird, it was. There was a discordant, dysfunctional difference between the preaching and the reality of what a drug cartel was and did. Somehow it made sense to people on the ground in Michoacán — during the time that LFM operated.

After MEXGOV essentially eliminated LFM leadership both through direct action and arrest and extradition to the USA, there was a power vacuum.

The Knights Templar Cartel (Spanish: Los Caballeros Templarios) was then formed in Michoacán. This where things get even weirder because there was direct cooperation between the narcotics traffickers, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, in particular, and the Archbishop of Morelia, later Cardinal Alberto Suárez Inda.

Inda directly attempted to create a “moral and ethical drug cartel”.

The code of LCT was contained in a small, 22-page book, published by the Archdiocese that was distributed to all members of the cartel and even to the general public. The book was decorated with knights on horseback with lances and crosses.  “The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacan”  contained the rules and regulations of the gang. Under the direction of the church, the standard operating procedure for the cartel was based, in turn, on rules established during the Crusades by the Knights Templar.  Cartel members swore during a religious initiation ceremony to help the poor and helpless, fight against materialism, respect women and children, not kill for money, and not use drugs. The drugs they sold were reputed to be “pure” – purer than those peddled by other narcotics organizations.

During their first couple of years of operations, the Knights even went so far as drug testing all members. Much of their distribution territory in the US was located in the Pacific Northwest.

The former Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) scheduled a visit to Guanajuato on 23 March 2012. Previous to that date, on 17 March 2012, the Knights Templar Cartel put up 14 banners on the bridges pledging to not provoke any violent acts during the pope’s visit. The banners read the following: The Knights Templar Cartel will not partake in any warlike acts, we are not killers, welcome Pope. That’s how they rolled.

In January 2015, Pope Francis created Morelia’s archbishop, Alberto Suárez Inda, the archdiocese’s first Cardinal.

To make a longer and somewhat more complicated story shorter, the LCT was eventually absorbed by the Guadalajara Cartel (CJNG). That’s where it stands today. Meth isn’t the export commodity that it was. Cooperation with the Communist Party of China and the importation of precursors to create opiates, and particularly fentanyl for illegal export to the USA is now all the rage.

Notes:  During this period of time I worked in Mexico and elsewhere, collecting information that was used to help shape USGOV policy in Latin America (and elsewhere). I’m not saying that what I saw and reported was used well. I’ll let others decide that. I was simply there.

16 COMMENTS

    • Extensive.

      If you refer to “boots on the ground”, no. They’re not Mexican foot soldiers. They provide precursors and sometimes raw fentanyl. They provide ketamine (which I understand may be legal in Oregon – spooky) and meth precursors as well. Cartels provide US currency.

      The laundering between the US and PR China is pervasive and has been for some time. To some extent, it is pay-back for the precursors, in other cases, it’s true laundering and the proceeds end up in Mexico or in foreign accounts.

      It’s interesting that the surface-to-air missiles in inventory in most cartels are Russian. Many people believe that PR China sells them Russian missiles (Strella 1, 2, 3 = SAM7 & SAM14) just in case they use them. Of course, they also buy SAM’s out of the inventory of corrupt military organizations in Latin America as well.

  1. Fascinating and enlightening (as always). Most American’s haven’t a clue what really goes on.

    Religion, and by extension “the church”, is the man-made doctrinal portion, and in many (most?) cases driven by money and power. Spirituality, on the other hand, is what God looks to in a person.

    I despise “the church” in this manner. Judgement will be exact and possibly severe for these “Broods of Vipers”.

    • I am a recovered Catholic.
      I know many good and spirit-filled Christians who are Catholics.
      I have a Bible study every Tuesday that includes a friend who is one.
      I know some who are just catholics.
      I just don’t understand why, given the proven corruption, anyone sticks to the brand.

      • I was raised Roman Catholic, but as I grew older I fell away from the church. It seemed like even among the parishioners there was a “Holy On Sunday, Screw You During The Week” type of attitude, at least in the more properous parishes. Ours was “poor parish”, and the people there were much humbler.

        Now days I just refer to myself as a Christian.

      • Ed, I think there’s a lot of us out there…Christian home, Roman Catholic church growing up. Biblical tenets were similar and doctrine was followed…until further exploration (and many backpacking trips with mini New Testament in hand) helped to realize the Bible was personal and that as a Believer I too was one of the saints, part of the fold, not just those canonized by “the church”. Never knew that before…so I have a beef with the Catholic church keeping people from seeing their faith in that light. Ritual is fine, but this is about eternity…you don’t hide that critical detail. I prefer to keep it simple.

        Djim & Beans…likewise.

        • In the interest of being fair, there was this huge archdiocese in which almost all of its flock touched meth at one point and they wanted to reduce the killing. I don’t know what was in their minds, but this had to be part of it.

          And there were large donations to the Church in the form of indulgences…

    • If you were unpopular with the leadership and broke the rules, the cartel executed you with extreme prejudice.

      If you were popular with the leadership and broke the rules, the cartel treated the rules as “guidelines”. You got off by buying a round at the cantina.

      Not unlike the Hunter Biden story.

  2. Interesting. And no doubt well known, but not ever reported. Because the eneMedia and their leaders and controllers don’t want us to know.

    Funny story, I had a friend who was in Japan and did a huge book on the Yakuza. Like, they invited him in, let him interview them, let him take pictures, talk to everyone, from the lowest to the highest.

    But… he couldn’t publish until way after his death.

    Though, apparently, after talking with him, everyone in Japan pretty much knew the whole story. Just nobody talked about it or published it. And, amazingly-not, how many politicians were in the Yakuza’s pocket, along with news organizations, business leaders, well, just about everyone.

    • So, well, your story sounds much like his. Except the Cartels don’t have the complete info lock like the Yakuza do.

      • David Kaplan wrote The Cult at the End of the World. It dealt with the Aum Supreme Truth, and its founder, Shoko Asahara. David Kaplan is a dear friend of mine. He was a reporter for Asia Times, and I think US News & World Report at one time. I haven’t seen him since I was in France a decade or so ago. Still friends. Speaking with him about the relationship between Aum Supreme and the Yakuza was interesting. I haven’t had much personal interaction with the Yaks. Most of my knowledge is second-hand.

        • LL – Do you know if there’s much of a Yakuza presence in SoCal? Some of my Old Japanes Car buddies seemed to know of a few, but they were very low profile from what I gathered. Saw some starnge tats at some of the car meets, and m buddied warned me away from a couple of groups claiming they were “Bad Guys”, but don’t know much else….

  3. I’ve been divorced twice, so that doesn’t help. I always admired John Paul II. With all the problems with the Catholic Church along with the lies and the evil………I have pretty much turned away from organized religion.
    That being said, there was one priest…. If you could clone the perfect priest this guy would be the one. Reverend Monsignor Joseph P. Dooley. He passed in 2017. Great man. Great public speaker. Would tell jokes during mass. He would give an aside before the readings to put things in historical context. Charitable beyond belief. He would always say, no one should be alone during the holidays and if anyone was that they always had a place at his table.
    Before he was a priest he was a Sergeant in the 82nd Airborne. Jumped into Normandy on D-Day. Served in the Navy after the war. Then entered the priesthood.
    As you can tell, I did admire him alot. He was one of the good ones.

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