MEXICO CITY — The leader of the Knights Templar cartel and one of the most wanted drug lords in Mexico, Servando Gómez, was captured on Friday, officials said.
Gómez, known as La Tuta, frequently put on display his close ties to local politicians, releasing videos in which he either appeared with government officials or blamed them for wreaking havoc on the population.
The violence that the Knights Templar cartel unleashed under Gómez's leadership led to the proliferation of self-defense groups in Michoacán State, the drug lord's home state, turning it into one of the most volatile in the country. The federal government sent forces to the restive region last year, but Gómez remained at large and offshoot criminal groups continued to emerge.
In one of the videos that became his hallmark, Gómez appears with Rodrigo Vallejo, the son of a former governor of Michoacán. Vallejo appears relaxed, sipping a beer while talking about political maneuvering with Gómez.
Vallejo later said he had been kidnapped and forced to appear in the video.
"If the federal government and the state government assume their responsibility as good guardians and restore public order in the states, the towns, and the municipalities, we will put away our weapons and step aside," said Gómez in another video, standing in a defiant position and speaking directly to the camera.
In a final audio released earlier this month, Gómez accused the recently founded Michoacán-based criminal gang Los Viagras of being "worse" than him. He said the group has no honor or loyalty.
Gómez was captured in Morelia, the capital city of Michoacán State. Former President Felipe Calderon, who unleashed a wave of violence across the country when he declared war on criminal syndicates in 2006, also hailed from the western Mexico state, which has been particularly battered by warring cartels and self-defense groups.
The Mexican government offered a $2 million reward for his capture. Gómez was also sought in the United States, where a 2009 indictment from the Southern District of New York described the Knights Templar as the newest Mexican cartels, "directly responsible for a vast majority of the methamphetamine pouring into our country across our Southwest Border."
As news of Gómez's capture emerged, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam was expected to step down. Murillo Karam's handling of several high-profile cases, including the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero, has drawn ire from many here.