Mexican Navy Thinks It's Killed the Leader of the Zetas Cartel

This article is from the archive of our partner .

The Mexican Navy claims to have killed the founder and leader of the Zetas drug cartel: Heriberto Lazcano, known El Lazca or "The Executioner." They key word here is "think" as authorities are in the middle of numerous forensic tests to make sure the guy they killed is the guy they say they killed—as is the protocol when you take out one of the most powerful crime lords in the country.  Still, it's been a good week for Mexico's naval forces. Last night they announced the capture of a commander of the Zetas, the more-fearsome-than his-name-suggests Commander Squirrel

But the big prize for Mexico's anti-cartel efforts would be the leader of the group. The Navy said in a statement picked up by Reuters, "Two suspected Zetas gang members who attacked the marines with grenades from a moving car were killed in the gunfight and initial forensic tests suggested one of the bodies was the former soldier Lazcano." As the New York Times's Randal Archibold reports, Lazcano is one of Mexico's most wanted criminals, a former member of the Mexican army, and runs the Zetas Cartel—the group behind mass beheadings and some of the most gruesome acts perpetrated in Mexico's drug war. Think of him like Osama bin Laden or Whitey Bulger, and you can imagine the magnitude of his death and perhaps the disappointment if this all turns out to be false. "If confirmed, his death would give President Felipe Calderón probably his biggest victory against drug and organized crime groups, two months before he ends his six-year term," adds Archibold, who adds that Calderón's presidency has been marred by the rise of organized crime groups, the death of some 60,000 people in the drug war, and his lack of success against them. Lazcano is also wanted in the United States for drug trafficking, and the U.S. State Department has $5 million out for him. 

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