Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Confusion, uncertainty after reported death of Zeta # 1

Confederates make off with the boss' corpse - in a hearse

*Updates below*
Guadalajara -
Although the Mexican government is still celebrating Sunday's elimination of the top boss of the Los Zetas cartel (Mexican security forces kill Los Zetas leader in gun battle), doubts linger, and not everyone is convinced.

President Calderón praised Mexican marines yesterday, pointing out that Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano was the 25th on a list of the nation's 37 most wanted organized crime figures to be captured or killed. But is the victim, who died in a shootout in Progreso, Coahuila, a state adjoining Texas, the man who everyone thinks he is?

His body was spirited away early Monday morning (Oct. 8) by armed commandos who burst into the funeral home where marines had carried his remains after the gunfight. Narcos borrowed a hearse to haul off Lazcano and another dead Zeta brother, forcing the mortuary proprietor to drive it. The curious kidnapping occurred at about 1:00 a.m., but he didn't report it to local officials until just after 8:00 a.m.

In Washington, the DEA expressed some doubts. Their records show a different height and birth date for Lazcano than do Mexico's.

But the federal and state governments here insist they've correctly identified the victim. Post-mortem photos comport with known images of Lazcano, they maintain, and fingerprints matched up. In any case forensic investigators took tissue and blood samples from the corpse before it was stolen. They plan to compare the victim's DNA with that of Zeta # 1's family members to corroborate the ID.

A law professor and Mexican public security expert at the University of Heidelberg (Germany) claims that even if Lazcano was killed, it will make no difference in the country's brutal drug war. Others will replace him immediately. Moreover, an entirely separate wing of Los Zetas led by Z-40 is a powerful force unto itself. The Zetas splintered late last year, according to the expert.

"Lazcano's death has no great significance," he said. "A vicious struggle for control of the plaza (drug sales and narcotics trafficking routes) will continue. It's not the end of the Zetas."

Oct. 11 - The death of Lazcano does count, and in a big way, argues this columnist.

Oct. 12 - To satisfy disbelievers and naysayers, death photos of Lazcano have now been distributed, courtesy of Univision.

Oct. 13 - An intriguing Associated Press story quoted here this evening suggests that the U.S. has extremely well-placed sources in Mexico. AP reports that an American official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told it that Washington had independently verified Lazcano's identity before his body was stolen from the funeral home. Only about 12 hours elapsed between the time he was killed by Mexican marines and the arrival of an armed squad at a small town mortuary in Coahuila state, where the remains were autopsied last Sunday evening. According to all accounts, even Mexico didn't know for sure who the man was when his body was carried off. But Washington already did, if the unnamed official knows what he's talking about. The logical conclusion is that high ranking American agents must be on the virtual front lines of Mexico's drug war, relaying the facts back to their handlers almost as fast as events unfold. Shades of U.S. "military advisers" embedded with the South Vietnamese army in the early 1960s, which eventually led to full scale American participation in that conflict.

Fallout continues after attack on CIA agents, as Mexico and U.S. disagree over Tres Marías
Mexico City's boss Marcelo Ebrard asks: are CIA agents operating undercover in his country?

Oct. 17 - Investigators can't seem to locate any family members of Lazcano to run DNA tests. So what are they going to do? Dig up the corpses of his deceased parents. What a pleasant thought.

Oct. 22 - Under heavy guard by Mexican Federal Police units, a mortuary team exhumed Lazcano's father's remains today. Perhaps they should have waited another week, until the Day of the Dead.

Oct. 23 - A U.S. undersecretary of state, William Brownfield, says that DNA tests confirm to almost 100% certainty Lazcano's identity. American officials apparently have better information about this case than their Mexican counterparts, who've said that test results will be available within three weeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment