Mexican drug lord makes waves new videos

2014-09-23 09:28
A screen grab of Servando Gomez from a video. (YouTube)

A screen grab of Servando Gomez from a video. (YouTube)

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Mexico City - Servando Gomez is believed to be hiding deep in the mountains of the western state of Michoacan, yet he is the most visible drug lord in all of Mexico.

While he is on the lam, the elusive Knights Templar drug cartel leader has emerged in a series of videos in recent months, unlike most gang leaders, who carefully avoid the spotlight.

The tapes have ensnared local officials who have appeared sharing beers or chatting with him around table.

But two journalists were the latest figures caught in Gomez's love of the camera in a new video leaked on Monday, showing that the cartel sought to influence the media as well as local politicians.

"This is another demonstration of the domination that this criminal organization had over the state, almost like a substitute of the authorities", Jaime Rivera, political science professor at Michoacana University, told AFP.

With the collaboration of corrupt local officials, the Knights Templar "was able to cast their net over everybody, including businessmen, politicians and journalists", Rivera said.

The tapes have appeared even while local militiamen are hunting for him in the forest and his gang was severely weakened by the arrests or the deaths of top leaders.

Last year, he gave interviews to foreign news channels and ranted against opponents in videos uploaded on YouTube, wearing a baseball cap and standing with a pistol holstered to his belt.

But his most recent videography is of a different sort.

They show him sitting down with people who may not have known they were being taped, which would suggest that the videos were made and kept to one day threaten or expose those who were taped.

"For La Tuta, these videos were a sort of insurance policy against possible betrayals", Alejandro Hope, a security analyst and former intelligence official, told AFP.

The source of the recent leaks is unknown.

"There are two possibilities: The [federal] government or La Tuta", Hope said, adding that for the government, the most recent tape would be to discredit media whose coverage it disliked.

Can't say no to La Tuta

Authorities have arrested a former interim governor, an ex-governor's son and a former Michoacan transport union leader on various charges after they appeared in La Tuta's tapes.

In the latest tape leaked to MVS radio, two journalists, including one who was working for Televisa, Mexico's biggest broadcaster, are sitting at a table with Gomez and appear to be giving him media strategy advice.

At the end of the tape, Televisa correspondent Eliseo Caballero and Esquema news agency director Jose Luis Diaz Perez appear to be accepting cash from Gomez, MVS said.

While the journalists admitted that the meeting took place in late 2013, they said they had no choice but to Gomez with him because he was not the kind of man you say no to.

"Everything I answered to La Tuta during this meeting was part of a plan, because I wanted to get out freely or ensure a safe return to my home", Caballero told MVS.

The drug war has made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, with scores killed and others facing constant threats in the past decade.

Televisa fired Caballero after he admitted meeting Gomez. The broadcaster said in a statement that it had not known about the meeting until now and that it had presented a complaint to the authorities.

An official in the attorney general's office said prosecutors had yet to receive the complaint but that in previous cases, authorities interrogated those appearing in the tapes before deciding whether to charge them.

While tapes keep springing up, some 1 200 members of a rural force made up of former vigilantes are searching for Gomez.

"We are working had in the hills with the goal of closing off everything and preventing him from getting food, so that he will fall", Estanislao Beltran, a leader of the rural force, told AFP.

Read more on:    mexico  |  mexico drug war

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