The Mexican government announced Monday night that its forces likely killed one of the country's most powerful drug lords - Enrique “Kike” Plancarte Solís -one of the top leaders of the Knights Templar Cartel.
Mexico's security ministry released a statement saying that Plancarte was believed to have been killed Monday during a shootout with about 200 marines and federal forces in the central state of Queretaro, but that the identity of the body still needed to be confirmed. A government Twitter account posted a message saying more information would be released Tuesday morning.
Plancarte was allegedly one of the ring leaders and founders of the Knights Templar Cartel, a group that trafficked drugs, and taxed hundreds of local businesses in the western state of Michoacan. The organization has taken several blows to their leadership ranks in the last few weeks, including the killing of its most well-known figure, Nazario Moreno González, “El Chayo.”
Unlike other drug cartels in Mexico, the Knight’s Templar have a religious bent. “El Chayo” was elevated to saint status and had altars dedicated to him; the cartel generally sought to portray itself as benevolent with strict code of moral conduct, but they were accused of extortion, rapes and kidnappings. Over the last year, Michoacan became one of fiercest battle grounds in the drug war, as well-funded citizen self-defense groups began fighting the Knights Templar, driving them out out of several cities.
Who He Was
Born in 1970 in Nueva Italia, Michoacan, Plancarte, also known as “La Chiva,” was a sought after man: he was wanted by the Mexican government for organized crime, kidnapping, extortion, robbery and homicide, and authorities had put up a 10 million peso reward for information on his whereabouts. He was also wanted in the United States for trafficking methamphetamines.
But Plancarte was not easy to track down. According to local reports, he switched phones often, hid in caves and ranches and was generally surrounded by several dozen people who protected him as he moved through the areas he controlled.
Plancarte’s death came after months of searching for him. The confrontation allegedly lasted over 24 hours, and involved the raid of dozens of houses and an intense sweep through of the area by federal forces.
His family was allegedly involved in the drug business, as well: his uncle Dionisio Loya Plancarte (aka “El Tio”) was a high-ranking Knight’s Templar leader, who once challenged a self defense group leader to a 19th century style duel over youtube. He was captured earlier this year.
As the conflict between the cartel and vigilantes in Michoacan intensified, Plancarte’s children also received scrutiny. Melissa and Enrique Jr. are both singers (the self proclaimed princess and prince of banda music). They brazenly boasted about their father and their affiliations with Knights Templar in their music and in their social media accounts. Melissa Plancarte became particularly controversial a few months ago when pictures from her Instagram account surfaced, featuring her posing in a revealing Knights Templar outfit.
President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has sought to shift attention away from the gruesome violence of the Mexican drug war started under President Calderón, which has resulted in some 60,000 deaths, and instead shine a spotlight on his economic and educational reforms. During Peña Nieto’s presidency, however, various high profile drug cartel leaders have been brought down, including Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who was the most sought after narco in the world until he was arrested in February.