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COALCOMAN, Mexico — From a desk overlooking the shady plaza of his backwater mountain town, Mayor Rafael Garcia recounts how he and other citizens finally mustered the nerve to take on the gangsters tormenting them.

“The problem started when they began messing with the population: extortion, rapes, killings,” Garcia, 42, says of the Knights Templar, the fancifully named cartel of thugs who control many of western Michoacan state’s 113 counties. “We were terrified. We are still terrified.”

“We are a very small town raising its voice,” he says. “Hopefully it will have an impact.”

Confronting Mexico’s Knights Templar cartel

Who are Mexico’s Knights Templar?

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