Morelia, Mexico – A drug-trafficking organization active in the western state of Michoacán offered to lay down its guns if Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, takes effective action to curb violent crime in the state.
Los Caballeros Templarios (Knights Templar) conveyed the offer via banners hung from bridges and water towers here in Morelia, the state capital, as well as in Zamora and Uriangato, a city in the neighboring state of Guanajuato, authorities said.
Police and army troops took down the banners shortly after daybreak on Wednesday.
The messages included criticism of former President Felipe Calderón, a Michoacán native who left office Nov. 30, for having left Mexico with a colossal crime problem.
Conflict among rival drug cartels and between criminals and the security forces has claimed some 60,000 lives in Mexico since December 2006, when the newly inaugurated Calderón militarized the struggle against narco-trafficking.
The Caballeros Templarios cartel was founded in March 2011 by former members of the La Familia Michoacána organization and deals in both synthetic drugs and natural drugs.
The "Knights" have been fighting rival gangs for control of turf and smuggling routes in Guerrero and Michoacán states, both of which are located on the Pacific.
Michoacán's forests and mountains are used by drug traffickers to grow marijuana and produce synthetic drugs.