Leading a drug cartel can be somewhat of a political job. And sometimes it involves securing the support of the local people.
In this video, which was aired on Tuesday by Mexican TV station Televisa, the leader of the Knights Templar cartel walks around the town of Tumbiscatio in Michoacan Sate, shaking hands with locals, and handing out money.
“We are a necessary evil,” Knights Templar drug lord Servando Gomez tells the crowd. “If we weren’t here, another group would be here.”
The footage was taken after the Mexican government promised to re-establish law and order in Michoacan, a state in which vigilante groups and the Knights Templar cartel have been fighting each other for several months.
Servando Gomez, alias “La Tuta,” has been indicted in the U.S. for cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking. Vigilante groups in Michoacan accuse his organization of enriching itself by forcing taxes upon local businesses and kidnapping hundreds of people for ransom.
Vigilante groups staged a major offensive against the Knights Templar earlier this month, which prompted the Mexican government to send more troops to Michoacan. But vigilante groups say they will not lay down their weapons until La Tuta and six other leaders of the Knights Templar cartel are captured.
It appears that for the moment, La Tuta has no fear of arrest in his territory and can hand out money to his supporters in broad daylight.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.