Monday, March 19, 2012
Mexican Cartel Promises Peace for Pope Benedict's Visit

Mexican Cartel Promises Peace for Pope Benedict's Visit

Although Mexico has been wracked by drug-related violence in the last few years, at least one cartel has been hanging banners promising that there will be no bloodshed during Pope Benedict XVI's visit next week.

The gang, referring to itself as The Knights Templar, has reportedly placed 11 banners around five municipalities, all promising that the pope would have a safe visit to Mexico.

At least one of the banners was hung in the city of Leon, where Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to meet President Felipe Calderon at the airport before leaving for Cuba.

Although law enforcement officials have not confirmed the full text of any of the banners, Mexico's La Reforma newspaper reports that one banner reads: "The Knights Templar disavow any military action, we are not murders, welcome to the Pope."

The Knights Templar posted similar banners in February warning rival gangs to stay out of the province during the Benedict's visit.

Named for an order of knights during the Crusades, The Knights Templar claim to be "defenders of the people" and often adopt religious rhetoric to justify their actions.

The historical Knights Templar served as a prominent charity, innovated banking techniques, and fought in Jerusalem from 1119 to 1312, when it was finally disbanded by Pope Clement V.

In Mexico, the Knights Templar cartel rose from the ashes of the "narco-Evangelical" La Familia cartel after the Mexican government managed to capture the top two members of La Familia."Narco-Evangelical" is a reference to drug cartels who use a religious basis for their actions, as they see the drug trade and killings as a means to do good works, such as protecting their communities. 

The Mexican gang announced its presence in the spring of 2010 with a series of 40 banners proclaiming that they would protect the region.

"Our commitment is to safeguard order, avoid robberies, kidnapping, extortion, and to shield the state from rival organizations," the banners read.

Since then, however, The Knights have made several bloody shows of force in the region, including opening fire on a federal helicopter and displaying 14 bloody corpses when Mexico hosted the under-17 World Soccer Cup in 2011.

It is estimated that more than 50,000 Mexicans have lost their lives to gang violence since 2006.


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