Mexico Captures Knights Templar Cartel Leader in Michoacan

Mexico detained a top leader of the Knights Templar cartel in Michoacan and agreed to incorporate vigilantes fighting the drug gang in the western state into a special police force.

The army and federal agents captured Dionicio Loya Plancarte, known as El Tio, who was wanted by the government for 30 million pesos ($2.24 million), said a press official in the Attorney General’s Office, who asked not to be named because government policy prohibits it. Hours after Loya’s capture, the government said it signed a pact with vigilantes who’ve taken up arms against the cartel to allow them to register their weapons and form a temporary rural police brigade.

President Enrique Pena Nieto deployed the army to Michoacan earlier this month after armed vigilantes stripped police officers of their weapons in more than a dozen towns, accusing them of links to drug gangs that have been extorting citizens for years. After initially clashing with the so-called self-defense groups, the army took over duties from local police and began arresting cartel leaders in the state in efforts to improve security. The vigilantes had demanded top cartel leaders be caught before they would consider disarming.

“This is an important capture,” Jorge Chabat, a security analyst at the Center for Economic Research and Teacher, a Mexico City-based university, said by phone. “This will contribute to strengthening the image of the government as one that is attacking this criminal group. But there are still many leaders who work for this organization and it won’t be easy to capture all of them so quickly.”

The vigilantes can eventually become members of the municipal police once their names are registered and they’ve completed requirements to enter the force, the Interior Ministry said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nacha Cattan in Mexico City at ncattan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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