VANGUARDIA, EXCELSIOR, MILENIO, INFORMADOR (Mexico)
MEXICO CITY - Authorities in Mexico were busy Tuesday trying to determine if one of the country's most feared drugpins had been killed over the weekend in a firefight with military forces.
The showdown took place Sunday at a crossroads in the northeastern Mexican city of Coahuila, when the Naval forces were attacked by firearms and explosives. The Navy finally won the firefight, killing two “criminals,” according to Mexican paper La Vanguardia.
In the dead men’s vehicle, the navy found two grenade launchers with 12 live grenades, as well as a rocket-launcher and assault weapons. And perhaps more importantly, were the fingerprints left behind of one of the men, which may be those of Heriberto Lazcano, a.k.a El Lazca, the drug lord who is the U.S. and Mexico’s No. 2 most-wanted man.
The Secretary of the Navy announced that there are “strong indications” that El Lazca is dead, according to the Mexican newspaper Excelsior. The Navy, however, could not produce the body of El Lazca. Military spokesmen confirmed that the government did not have the body, reported Milenio.
Lazcano, 38, was believed to live and work in Coahuila, while the cartel he ran, Los Zetas, was considered the most powerful and most feared in Mexico.
Los Zetas began as a breakaway branch of the Gulf cartel, which hired policemen and special forces soldiers at far higher wages than they can get in the impoverished state of Tamaulipas, where Los Zetas is based.
Determined to break the power of the cartels, the Mexican federal government has built new military bases in the state, where in spite of the violence policemen are paid far less than in more prosperous states, which makes them vulnerable to corruption by the cartel’s money. In April, soldiers tried to capture El Lazca at a private concert in Coahuila, but he escaped. He was almost caught again in September at the airport of Mérida, La Vanguardia reported.
Before becoming a drug lord, El Lazca served in an elite unit of the Mexican air force, and left the military in 1998 as a corporal. He was recruited by the Gulf cartel shortly afterwards along with deserters from elite units, to form a bodyguard for the cartel’s leaders. El Lazca took over after the outfit's first chief was killed in a restaurant in 2002. Los Zetas broke awayfrom the Gulf cartel in 2010, according to Informador. He is also known as Z3 and El Verdugo (the executioner). Los Zetas is known for its extraordinary brutality.
The death of El Lazca would be a triumph for the Mexican president Felipe Calderón, who is leaving office in two months, said La Vanguardia. If true, it would be the biggest blow against the cartels, which have killed over 60,000 people in their wars, since Calderón became president six years ago. The U.S. government was offering $5 million for El Lazca's capture, and the Mexican government 30 million pesos ($2.3 million).