Not only drugs, the Knights Templares and the trafficking of iron ore to China
The pseudo-religious Knights Templar, a drug cartel in western Mexico, has diversified it's activity. Not only drugs, nowadays the bloody cartel has infiltrated in the production of meat, crops, timber and public transport. But the most lucrative activity is the iron ore that's their principal source of income, infact they're charging $15 a metric tonne for the process, from extraction to transport, processing, storage, permits and export. 50% of the iron extract from Michoacán, the province controlled by the Knights Templar, is illegal and under Templar's control.
Alonso Ancira, president of the National Chamber of Iron and Steel, recently told local journalists that he estimated drug cartels earned $1 billion in profits from selling iron ore in 2013. The Templars use the port of Làzaro Càrdenas, on the Pacific Coast, for sending the iron to China, and this business had become even profitable for them than drugs, because, of course, is not ordinary business.
For years Michoacán has been lawless, and the area surrounding the port of Làzaro Càrdenas has been a battleground for drug gangs fighting over its strategic location. A recently won by the Templars, who took advantage of the fact that Michoacán is Mexico's biggest producer of iron ore. Officials say they muscled in and forced the local mine bosses, some of whom are Chinese, to pay from $4 to $7 per tonne of mineral extracted. By some accounts, they also sent shipments of iron ore and other minerals to China themselves, including gold, which was hidden in containers. In return, the Chinese have sent chemical precursors for making synthetic drugs.
Security conditions continued to deteriorate in Michoacán. In april Virgilio Camacho, a top executive at ArcelorMittal, a global steelmaker, died from a single gunshot wound to the head. In July, a Navy vice admiral was ambushed and murdered there, the highest-ranking military officer killed in Mexico's war on drugs. In October, gunmen believed to be Templars attacked power stations across Michoacán with Molotov cocktails, leaving more than 400,000 people in darkness for about two days.
That's the reason why since November the Mexican Navy seized the port of Làzaro Càrdenas, and the Templars appear to have lost control of their biggest business. That's an unprecedented federal takeover. The Templars pose a difficult challenge, the organization has succeeded in penetrating the social fabric and popular imagination of Michoacán society, winning converts and corrupting some politicians.