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Yesterday a Knight Templar, Today a Member of Self-Defense Group – 5 Recovered Templars Speak

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January 22, 2014

Tierra Caliente, Michoacán – Now it turns out that The Templar, at least this Templar, is good. At the least, his story is moving. An entire family gets out of a taxi. From grandmother to babe in arms. From the other side of the road comes a man whom they smother in hugs and tears. One by one, he picks up and fusses over each child. The affectionate father is a repentant Knight Templar.
Putting on a ski mask, he agrees to be interviewed.

La Jornada: What was your work with The Knights Templar?
“Gunslinger. Or hitman, yes.”
La Jornada:How long were you with them?
“Four months. Thank God, I had remorse watching so many people die.”
Let’s call him Juan … escaped from “a ranch on a hill” where he lived with other thugs.
La Jornada: They say that you arrived barefoot. Why?
“Because they wanted to kill me, sir. For four days, I wandered around lost. Until I arrived at this self-defense group that has given me the opportunity to help them.”
La Jornada:They tell me that you were injured when you arrived.
“I arrived very skinny. I wasn’t eating or sleeping. My bare feet were raw from running on the rocks. But I thank God and the protection of Saint Peter that he shielded me.”
La Jornada:Did you participate in levantones [seizures, kidnappings], in shootings?
“No, in levantones, no. We were plotting an explosion to kill many people in these lands.”
Members of the self-defense group who gave shelter to Juan confirm his account. They went to a place called La Peña, accompanied by ”specialists from the Federal District [Mexico City],” sent by the government to make off with the explosive devices
. La Jornada: What kind of bombs were they?
“I cannot say, but they were very strong. Thank God, it was possible to save the lives of many people,” insists the former Knight Templar.
La Jornada:Why did you join that group?
“I am poor, and I needed money to support my family. But I didn’t expect to kill a person. I didn’t even want to assassinate anyone.”
La Jornada:What did they offer you to join the Templars?
“They offered me money (12,000 pesos [USD $902] per month), but they are liars, they don’t have money, and they don’t pay what they say. They are poor.”
La Jornada:Why do you say they are poor?
“Because they don’t have any support from the leaders who had helped them before.”
Since he arrived, about four months ago, the former Templar has become an enthusiastic member of the self-defense group, “because this is not a criminal group; on the contrary, they support and help the people who need it most.”
Since his family still lives in a place controlled by the Knights, Juan can’t return home. So he prefers to stick with the self-defense group, and he called on the people of the region to press
“forward in order to take Apatzingán soon. We don’t know what day, but it is going to come.”
La Jornada:What was your job?
“To ensure that no outsiders entered the ranch [hide-out].”
Now on the other side, Juandeclares himself to be a fighter ”for the peace and freedom of the people.”
Four Former Lookouts
Four teenagers sit very straight, as if the police might interrogate them. Not a muscle moves on their faces. They are punteros [pointers, lookouts]. In other places, they are called halcones [hawks, lookouts]. It is the lowest rung in the organization structure of the cartels.
Toño is 16 and has been a lookout since he was 10 years old. His job was to spend 12 or 24 hours at a certain point and “report the units of Federal Police and soldiers” who passed by there. When his shift ended, he handed over the radio to his relief. The salary was 1,500 pesos [USD $113] a week, although he and his companions complain that they weren’t always paid as promised.
José, 20, says that in reality he was also a messenger and errand boy. It was his job to sweep out the hideout and fill gunnysacks for the barricades. His main task, however, was to bring food and drinks to senior Templars.
”Sometimes here, at other times to a few ranches, and sometimes to some road.”
In that work of bringing chickens, sodas and crud, it went bad for him.
”Sometimes they called me in the madrugada [between midnight and dawn] to bring them a coke, and if I fell asleep they punished me.”
The punishment depended on the size of the failure, but sometimes they came to tie his hands and feet, blindfold him and beat for hours.
“It’s horrible because you never know what they are going to do,” he laments.
Since everyone in Antúñez knew what they did for a living, once the self-defense groups took control of the population they brought the punteros to their houses. Now they are in a community barracks seeking forgiveness by sweeping the ground with brooms, scrubbing toilets and serving refreshments. It’s much the same as the former Templar who has become an enthusiastic member of the self-defense groups, but without being beaten.
He refused promotion, then fled
Despite failing to deliver soft drinks, José was at the point of being promoted.
“They were going to let me go with them, because they said ‘you’re winning your level, your respect’.”
Out of caution or fear, José pretended that he had broken his leg. The Templars discovered the ruse, and José had to flee to Tijuana,
”because they were going to kill me.”
He returned once the self-defense groups, in their advance toward Apatzingán, took possession of his town. The advance was stopped solely by the decision of the federal government.

The four are asked about the ”code of The Knights Templar.” José responds:

”Pure lies. They said that one shouldn’t abuse women, but they did it. They said they wouldn’t make off with girls, but they did that, too. They said they wouldn’t engage in kidnapping, but they kidnapped.”
The books by Nazario Moreno [member of La Familia Michoacana, of which The Knights Templar are a spin-off; Moreno was responsible for psychologically indoctrinating cartel members and is credited with writing the so-called ‘code’, or ‘bible’] and postings on The Knights Templar social networks state that neither alcohol nor drugs are consumed in their ranks, but the punteros say the gunmen drink and take drugs.
Their testimonies that they acted under force weighs tons. José, with his sincere face, puts it like this:
“The truth is, it is a job for lazy jerks, because it is done seated, or done sitting on a motorbike.”

About Doc

Spreading the word about the dangers of methamphetamine.

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