MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s government confirmed late Sunday that the leader of the Knights Templar Cartel was killed in a shootout with marines despite being declared dead by authorities in 2010.
Tomas Zeron, head of the criminal investigation unit for the federal attorney general’s office, said the identity of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez had been confirmed 100 percent by fingerprints, but added that tests would continue.
The Mexican military had been tracking Moreno and marines confronted him in Timbuscatio, a town in the remote mountains of the western farming state of Michoacan, his cartel’s home base.
Security spokesman Alejandro Rubido said that despite the December 2010 announcement Moreno had been killed in a shootout with federal police, national government officials taking over Michoacan in January discovered reports that he was alive.
Moreno, nicknamed “The Craziest One,” would have turned 44 on Saturday, according to a government birthdate. He led the La Familia cartel when he supposedly perished in the 2010 gunbattle.
No corpse was found then, however. The government of then-President Felipe Calderon officially declared him dead, saying it had proof, but some residents of Michoacan had reported seeing Moreno since then.
After the death report, La Familia Michoacana morphed into the more vicious and powerful Knights Templar. The cartel under both names preached Moreno’s quasi-religious doctrine and moral code even as it became a major trafficker of methamphetamine to the U.S.
His killing comes on the heels of the Feb. 22 capture of Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in the Pacific resort city of Mazatlan.