News / Americas

Zetas Cartel Leader Killed, Body Snatched

This photo released October 9, 2012 by Mexico's Navy allegedly shows the body of Zetas drug cartel leader and founder Heriberto Lazcano while in the possession of Mexico's Medical Forensic Service in Sabinas, Mexico.
This photo released October 9, 2012 by Mexico's Navy allegedly shows the body of Zetas drug cartel leader and founder Heriberto Lazcano while in the possession of Mexico's Medical Forensic Service in Sabinas, Mexico.
Greg Flakus
The Mexican government is claiming a major victory in its war against illegal drug smugglers and violent criminal gangs after Mexican Marines killed the leader of the gang known as "Los Zetas" on Sunday.  A state prosecutor, however, said gunmen stole Lazcano's body from a funeral home. This follows the arrest of a gang member suspected of mass murders and last month's arrest of several other alleged major drug traffickers.  But, the violent drug war in Mexico is far from over.

Mexican authorities have posted photographs on the Internet of the body of the man they say was the leader of the country's most brutal drug gang - Los Zetas.  Mexican Marines, who carried out the operation that led to his shooting death, say fingerprints and other forensic tests prove the man they killed was 37-year-old Heriberto Lazcano, a former soldier who headed the gang that is known for its military-style tactics and its horrific violence.

Heriberto Lazcano

  • Born December 25, 1974
  • Leader of Los Zetas Cartel
  • Security chief for the Gulf Cartel
  • Oversaw management and deployment of Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas enforcement operatives
  • Charged in 2008 U.S. federal indictment with violating the controlled substances act

Source: State Department
The killing of the top Zeta is a major victory for President Felipe Calderon as he prepares to leave office in December.  Analysts say the war he started against criminal gangs after entering office six years ago is the most significant action of his presidency.  More than 60,000 people have died in the violence connected to that war, which involves Mexican soldiers and police fighting drug gangs that are also engaged in fighting with one another.

One of the top U.S. experts on Mexico, George Grayson of The College of William & Mary in Virginia, has written extensively about the drug war.  Grayson published a book on the Zetas earlier this year titled "The Executioner's Men:  Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs, and the Shadow State They Created."

He says Lazcano's death might give rise to more violence as new leaders take over and younger gunmen vie for positions in the highly structured organization.

“The problem is that the newer leaders are younger, they are less experienced, they are more likely to use drugs and they want to earn their stripes [prove themselves] by being extremely vicious," said Grayson.

Grayson says that in addition to the government, the other big winner is Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman - the fugitive leader of Mexico's largest and most powerful drug trafficking group, the Sinaloa Cartel.  Guzman has been backing the Gulf Cartel in its fight against Los Zetas.  He recently succeeded in patching a rift within that organization that weakened its hand in fighting for control of the most important drug smuggling corridor near the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.

“El Chapo comes out of this as one of the winners.  And I suspect that he would like to, with a united Gulf Cartel, make a grab for Nuevo Laredo," he said.

Analyst George Grayson says he expects to see more violence in that area and in the nearby industrial city of Monterrey, which has had some improvement in public safety in recent months after suffering a wave of shootings, kidnappings and assaults.

Grayson says the Lazcano killing demonstrates a shift in tactics that has paid dividends for the Mexican government.  He says President Calderon began his war on drug traffickers with massive deployments of army units, but more recently has relied on the Navy and Marines to carry out precision strikes on drug gang leaders.

"He is no longer sending hundreds, maybe thousands of army troops into areas where there was often collateral damage or human rights abuses.  He is relying less on the broad sword and more on the scalpel, and that scalpel is being wielded successfully by the Navy and the Marines," he said.

Incoming Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, says he favors such tactics.

George Grayson says Mr. Pena Nieto realizes that the average Mexicans are more concerned about public safety than crippling the illicit drug trade.

"The public is less concerned about the number of trophies of kingpins that are on the mantelpiece in the presidential palace than they are about having security in their homes and in their schools and in their workplaces.  And that is going to be the major challenge that Pena Nieto has - not simply taking down the drug lords, but reducing the violence," said Grayson.

In addition to killing Zeta leader Heriberto Lazcano, government forces this week captured Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, who is known as "The Squirrel."  He is suspected of some 300 murders, including the 2010 mass killing of 72 migrants in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas, and the murder that same year of a U.S. citizen who crossed into Mexico on a jet ski on Falcon Lake on the border near Laredo, Texas.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Chronically Hungry Numbers Decline

Three U.N. agencies have released the State of Food Security in the World report
More

UN: Enforced Disappearances Continue Unabated Globally

UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances says more than 43,000 cases from 88 countries still remain to be clarified
More

Hurricane Odile Weakens, Still a Threat to Mexico

Odile could drench Baja California with as much as 46 centimeters of rain by Friday
More

Powerful Hurricane Threatens Mexico's Baja California

US forecasters have downgraded Odile to strong Category 3 storm, with top sustained winds of 205 kilometers per hour
More

Hard-hitting Films Tackle Homelessness at Toronto Festival

'Time Out of Mind,' 'Shelter,' and 'Heaven Knows What' all focus on characters struggling with homelessness, addiction on the streets of New York
More

After Tax Reform Triumph, Chile's President Faces Rockier Road

'Honeymoon' may be over for Michelle Bachelet as protests rise and economy, security outlook worsen
More