'Commander Squirrel' Is a Horrible Name for a Drug Lord

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On Monday, the Mexican navy announced the capture of a suspected Zetas cartel leader who has his fingerprints on everything from jail breaks to the murder of American jet-skier David Hartley in 2010. The suspect, Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, is also thought to be responsible for the brutal killing of 72 migrants in the northern state of Tamaulipas and countless other deaths across the north of Mexico. Based on what Mexican authorities are saying about this guy, he's one of the truly despicable masterminds of Mexico's horrifyingly violent drug war. His friends call him "Commander Squirrel."

There's nothing funny about a druglord called "Commander Squirrel," because frankly, there's nothing funny about drug lords. Some of those keeping track estimate the death toll on Mexico's drug war from the beginning of Felipe Calderón's presidency to top 100,000 this year, and it's seemed like nobody is safe from the violence. Escobedo is the Zetas lieutenant responsible for some of the most gruesome atrocities. In the migrant killings, for instance, Escobedo allegedly ordered his men to stop tour buses passing through the area and slaughter anyone who either wouldn't pay extortion money or refused to join the gang.

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Escoberdo's capture is particularly interesting to American authorities, because it might shed some light on the Hartley murder. The 30-year-old American citizen was riding his jet-ski on a lake near the U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, when he was shot in the head from a distance for no apparent reason. Neither his body nor his watercraft was ever found, and once Mexican authorities started to investigate the case, the Tamaulipas state police commander and chief investigator on the case turned up dead as well. He'd been beheaded.

On the bright side of things, Mexican police appear to be making progress lately in capturing key Zetas leaders. Just last week, they bagged Ivan Velazquez Caballero, known as "El Taliban," and in early September, they got Mario Cardenas Guillen, "El Gordo." We're not sure who else is out there, but we can already imagine all of the other creepy drug lord names we'll learn when we catch them. It'll be like that New York mob bust all over again.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.