After a lengthy investigation by police and the department of Citizenship and Immigration, letters have been issued to hundreds of Canadians telling them the federal government intends to revoke their citizenship.
Individuals can challenge the decision in Federal Court but if they don't, cabinet will move to void their passports and strip them of their citizenship.
Some of the people targeted are believed to have used crooked consultants who submitted fraudulent applications on behalf of people who didn't meet the qualifications for citizenship — such as residency requirements.
"The bottom line is three years residency in Canada but a lot of people misrepresent the amount of time they spend here . . . (They) are actually living and working in Dubai, for example, but claiming they are in Canada and may be using consultants to manufacture evidence that they are here," immigration lawyer Andrew Wlodyka explained Tuesday.
Many people benefit from Canada's generosity while living in places where they don't pay income tax nor do they declare their worldwide income as they are required to under Canadian law, he said.
"We lose a lot of clients because we demand full disclosure, and a lot of the really good lawyers in town do the same, but clients don't want to disclose so they find consultants that will do whatever they want as long as they pay them," he added.
It is difficult for the government to track such cases because Canada doesn't have exit controls, residents can move easily across borders and it is difficult to track how long some have been gone.
Still, Wlodyka, acknowledged it is possible that some of the 1,800 may be victims themselves and have unknowingly committed immigration fraud by hiring unprincipled consultants.
Citizenship revocation is relatively uncommon in Canada. According to data from 2010 only 63 people have had their citizenship revoked since 1977, when the revocation process was established. Most were for reasons related to residence fraud, criminality, false identity and seven were for concealing their involvement in war crimes.
Speaking in Vancouver Tuesday, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said the federal government was trying to discourage immigration fraud.
"For those who simply touch down and try to get a Canadian passport as a . . . passport of convenience, who don't pay our taxes but who do consume our social benefits, I think that's dishonourable," he told a group of reporters after delivering a speech to a Vancouver Board of Trade.
"There are many ways that we are combating immigration fraud and abuse of our generosity, whether it is from (bogus) asylum claimants, crooked immigration consultants, people smugglers, people who are abusing out citizenship program," he added.
During a trip to the Punjab capital of Chandigarh in India in January 2009, Kenney said he was "floored" after seeing thousands of faked documents that had been submitted with visa applications. Many of the documents came from unscrupulous document vendors, counterfeit artists and fake immigration consultants who can charge $15,000.
Canadian citizenship can at times be a safety-net. Approximately 15,000 passport holders in Lebanon used their citizenship to get out of a war zone in 2006. The federal government spent almost $100 million bringing them home only to find out that some had rarely, if ever, set foot in Canada and that most returned to their Lebanon, their real home, as soon as situation calmed.
Last year, the Conservative government introduced legislation to streamline the time-consuming and expensive revocation process. The Tories wanted to remove the decision making from cabinet and place it in the hands of the Federal Court, which could also issue removal orders earlier in the process.
Federal police said they seized copies of the cartel's "code of conduct" booklet during an arrest of cartel members in the western state of Michoacan last week, but refused to release its contents Tuesday, saying they didn't want fan the flames of the quasi-religious movement.
But a copy of the 22-page "The Code of the Knights Templar of Michoacan," illustrated with knights on horseback bearing lances and crosses, was obtained by The Associated Press this week. It says the group "will begin a challenging ideological battle to defend the values of a society based on ethics."
The Knights Templar have been blamed for murders, extortion, drug trafficking and attacks on police. Analysts say the propaganda is part of an effort to transform a drug cartel into a social movement, along the lines of what right-wing paramilitary groups did in Colombia in the 1990s against leftist rebels - a fight in which both sides used the drug trade to finance their causes.
"I think the main intent is to create a social base in Michoacan ... and that way they are different from other criminal organizations," said Jorge Chabat, a veteran analyst of the drug trade in Mexico. "They say they are defending the people against attacks. In the case of Colombia it was the guerrillas; here it is against who knows what."
The Knights Templar was founded in March, according to the booklet, whose illustrations were lifted from an artist, a website of a company that sells swords and another promoting the 2007 Swedish film "Arn: The Knight Templar," according to an AP image search.
Named for a medieval Roman Catholic order of religious warriors who fought Muslim armies for control of Jerusalem, Knights Templar is a splinter group of La Familia, another cult-like cartel whose leader, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, published a motivational pamphlet called "The Sayings of the Craziest One."
While La Familia claimed strict codes of conduct among its members, including prohibiting using or selling drugs within Mexican territory, it didn't distribute its booklets publicly. The contents of its "bible," reportedly based on the teachings of U.S. evangelist John Eldredge, have never been revealed by authorities. The cartel became one of Mexico's major sources of methamphetamine.
The Mexican government claims to have all but dismantled La Familia since Moreno was killed in a shootout with federal police last December and another founder, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, was arrested last month.
But the mayhem and killing has continued in Michoacan as Knights Templar gunmen battle both the Zetas cartel and remnants of La Familia seeking to control President Felipe Calderon's home state more than 4½ years after Calderon launched his crackdown on organized crime here in 2006.
More than 35,000 people have died in drug violence across Mexico since then, according to government figures, and some groups put the number at more than 40,000.
Calderon has said he took on the cartels to prevent organized crime from spreading to the roots of Mexican society.
Like La Familia, Knights Templar claims to be highly religious, but unlike La Familia, the new cartel has sought to distribute its teachings to the general public with kitschy but florid posters, banners, emblems and even medieval robes.
"God is the truth and there is no truth without God," reads one passage in the booklet.
The person who gave the AP the professionally printed, pocket-size booklet said it was distributed earlier this month by two men in regular clothing aboard a bus traveling in rural Michoacan. He said the men handing out the material then sat down among the other passengers and, without saying a word, got off at the next stop. He asked that his name not be used for fear of retaliation.
The booklet says cartel members "must fight against materialism," and respect women and children. It prohibits them from killing for money and says, "for all members of the order, the use of any drugs or any hallucinogen is strictly prohibited." It mandates drug testing for members.
The Knights Templar have criticized federal police for failing to protect Michoacan against incursions by the ultra-violent Zetas.
The group may have helped organize a demonstration last week in the Michoacan city of Apatzingan, where people chanted "Federal police, get out!" Some young men scrawled slogans like "100 percent Knights Templar" on their T-shirts.
Government security spokesman Alejandro Poire did not respond to a reporter's question about whether the cartel had organized last Wednesday's demonstration, but said it had been known to do so in the past.
"It would not be the first time that various criminal organizations seek to use propaganda or publicity tools, but I stress that there is no criminal propaganda that can weaken the efforts of federal forces," Poire said Tuesday. "The stepped-up federal police presence will remain there."
While authorities at three government law enforcement agencies refused to confirm the authenticity of the AP's copy, the title is the same as three booklets that federal police found in a July 15 raid in Apatzingan that netted a suspect identified as the chief hit man for the cartel.
Along with the booklet, which also preaches loyalty to family and country, police also have confiscated banners with messages from the gang, trucks emblazoned with Templar "shields," and even white robes with red crosses like the ones worn by the original Knights Templar order.
The original knights were outlawed in Europe and executed and their order dismantled beginning in 1307.
Photos from a Mexican army raid the previous day on a Templar training camp in Zacapu, Michoacan, show pages like those in the booklet as well as a medieval-style helmet made of steel grating and the white tunics.
National security expert Javier Oliva at Mexico's National Autonomous University said the propaganda may have some pull in rural areas where the government is weak and lawlessness and violence are rampant.
"They mirror a bit the sociological, anthropological logic of the Mafia," he said. "They seek to take justice into their own hands in a Mexico where no functional justice system exists."
The propaganda campaign isn't winning over everyone.
The Mexico chapter of the modern-day Knights Templar Order issued a statement saying that "we disown completely and totally this disagreeable situation ... we have never had nor will we have contact with any of these people who display banners depicting themselves as Templars, and using this sacred name."
Welsh-born painter Mark Churms, who works from a studio in West Virginia, said he was never contacted by anyone in Mexico seeking to use his painting of a medieval knight, which appears in the booklet.
"When I was painting that image, I wasn't thinking, 'Wow, this would look good on a drug cartel leaflet,'" Churms said. "I hope people don't look at this and believe the hype that they are in any way connected with a monastic order."
Periódico La Jornada
Miércoles 20 de julio de 2011
Al preguntarle por las declaraciones del titular del Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (Cisen), respecto de que la pobreza, el narcotráfico y el descontento juvenil son vistos como amenaza para la seguridad nacional, el coordinador nacional de Oportunidades, Salvador Escobedo, aseveró que "el problema de la pobreza es una preocupación para todos y existe riesgo de que la gente en condiciones de pobreza sea más afín a involucrarse en actos de delincuencia, pero no está documentado".
En entrevista, después de la presentación del índice Ethos de pobreza 2011, el funcionario federal dijo en torno al desplome de los ingresos en los hogares que esta situación tiene una relación directa con los problemas económicos externos que han afectado a todos los países.
Según la fundación Ethos, México es el tercer país menos pobre en América Latina, después de Chile y Brasil. La medición consideró dos componentes de bienestar: la pobreza de hogar y la pobreza de entorno. En el primero se incluyen las dimensiones de ingreso, educación, acceso al agua potable y el servicio sanitario; en el segundo, las características de salud pública, instituciones, economía, democracia, seguridad pública, género y medio ambiente.
Además de los países mencionados participaron en la muestra Colombia, Perú, Venezuela, Ecuador y Bolivia. En el caso de México, las variables que contibuyen a la pobreza de hogar son el ingreso, el servicio sanitario y el acceso al agua potable.
Para abatir la pobreza –concluye la publicación– es necesario fortalecer la democracia y reducir los problemas asociados con la violencia y la inseguridad.
Por otro lado, el especialista en estudios sobre la juventud y profesor de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Alfredo Nateras, manifestó en relación con las declaraciones de Guillermo Valdés, titular del Cisen, que este tipo de discursos buscan criminalizar a la juventud y legitimar las políticas de cero tolerancia.
Consideró que "el Estado es la amenaza para los jóvenes", dado que los excluye y les niega oportunidades de desarrollo, mientras las bandas del crimen organizado les ofrecen espacios de adscripción social e identidad.
Agregó, por último, que las opciones del Estado para los jóvenes son convertirse en narcotraficantes o migrar a otro país, en los dos casos buscando el prestigio y respeto que no consiguen en el país.
Video: Vuelven los Toltecas, relato de Facundo Cabral