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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim 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.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid

More Americas News

Shortage-weary Venezuelans Scoff at Fingerprinting Plan for Food Sales

Proposal sparks backlash ranging from violent street protests to social media campaigns ridiculing the idea
More

Rescuers Contact 20 Miners Trapped in Nicaragua Gold Mine

Two miners have been rescued, others are believed to be alive
More

Brazil Enters Recession in Pre-election Blow to Rousseff

Experts say left-leaning policies have dented consumer and business confidence and caused heavy losses for financial investors
More

Peru Drug Bust Seizes Record 6.5 Tons of Cocaine

Police arrest 7 Peruvians, 2 Mexicans suspected of trying to smuggle load to Europe as coal
More

New Brazil Poll Shows Silva Beating Rousseff in Runoff

Outcome seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago; would put an end to 12 years of Workers' Party rule
More

Argentina Desires Deal Grouping All Holdout Investors Together

A deal is now not seen likely before next year's October presidential election, in which Fernandez cannot run
More