One of the three main leaders of the Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) drug cartel was killed in an ambush by Mexican marines on Monday. Authorities said 43-year-old Enrique “Kike” Plancarte was taken down in Colón, Querétaro, 230 kilometers from Mexico City.
Plancarte is the second leader of the Templarios to have been killed in recent weeks. Last month, police shot dead Nazario “El Chayo” Moreno, who was considered to be the drug cartel’s top leader.
Authorities believe that the Templarios will now be led by Servando Gómez, “La Tutu,” who is known for his love of media attention. Law enforcement officials believe that Gómez is hiding in Arteaga, a city in Michoacán state, where the cartel is active.
The Templarios have been consolidating their economic and political power in Michoacán for several years. But in January, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto went on the offensive to try to break up the cartel after rampant violence erupted across the state when vigilante forces took up arms to fight the drug traffickers.
Plancarte's children launched their own singing careers through their father's record label
Investigations have shown that the cartel extorted businessmen, farmers, miners and politicians in different cities. Traffickers demanded that elected officials pay them 10 percent of the money the central government allotted to the municipalities. The Templarios also controlled vast lime orchards and iron mines, two of the state’s biggest industries.
According to investigators, Plancarte formed his base of operations in Nueva Italia, near Múgica, which had become a key battleground for the cartel and self-defense forces. He built an ostentatious mansion in the center of town, which was later taken over by the vigilantes.
The Templarios had appointed Plancarte to organize concerts and events that were held in various municipalities across the state. His children, Melissa and Kike, have launched their own singing careers through their father's record label, Plan Records.
Melissa used the former justice palace in Michoacán, a colonial building in the center of the state capital Morelia, as the location for one of her music videos. When journalists discovered that the public building had been used by the drug lord’s daughter, Michoacán Governor Fausto Vallejo said he had no knowledge of the incident and speculated that “a janitor” might have let them in.
Mexican government officials also announced the arrest of Manuel Plancarte Gaspar, the drug lord’s nephew, on March 17. Police believe that he headed a human organ trafficking ring and is responsible for the disappearance of dozens of children throughout the state.