The Making and the Murder of a Mexican Cartel KingpinS

This is "Mexican Drug Blood," a regular feature on the deadly Mexican drug wars. Here, the story behind the murder of Zeta cartel boss Heriberto Lazcano.

The death of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, also known as "El Lazca" or "El Verdugo" (the Executioner), was one of the Mexican military's biggest blows to organized crime under the current administration. It was, undisputedly, an important triumph in the war against drug trafficking, especially since "El Lazca" was one of the most violent drug lords of recent times.

Lazcano was killed by members of the Marines while he was attending a baseball game in the town of Progreso, in the state of Coahuila. El Lazca and his escort, Mario Alberto Rodríguez Rodríguez, fought back against the Marines with guns and grenade launchers. Once they realized they were outnumbered, the two fled and fell victim to the soldiers' bullets.

The bodies of the cartel members were taken to a funeral home where experts confirmed their identities using fingerprints and photographs. As suspected, one of the bodies was that of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, alias El Lazca, leader of the Zetas. At the time of his death, El Lazca had a bounty of 30 million pesos from the Mexican government and five million dollars from the US government on his head.

A Mexican Cartel Kingpin

Heriberto El Lazca Lazcano—alias "Z-3" and "El Verdugo"—aged 38, was pegged as the leader of the Zetas by the Attorney General's office after the 2002 death of Arturo Guzmán Decena ("Z-1") and the 2003 capture of Rogelio González Pizaña ("Z-2") and Osiel Cárdenas Guillén. A former soldier in the Mexican army, Lazcano served as an infantry corporal for seven years, a rank he abandoned in 1998 for criminal activities.

After 2003, Lazcano became the leader of the Zetas.

El Lazca was recruited into the Gulf Cartel by former soldier Arturo Guzmán Decena and Osiel Cárdenas to fight Joaquin El Chapo Guzmán until his death. In 2010m the Zetas finally overthrew the Gulf Cartel. What began as a unit of the criminal organization became an independent cartel and deadly rival to their creators.

A Violent Man

According to the Attorney General's criminal profile, which is based on the testimonies of people who know him, El Lazca is prone to violence and betrayal. At 24, he abandoned the army to enter the world of drug trafficking. According to records of the Ministry of National Defense, Lazcano requested his military discharge after ranking as infantry corporal on March 27, 1998.

Lazcano was erroneously reported dead on Sept. 5, 2007, during a confrontation with military in Tamaulipas; however, authorities soon found that Lazcano was still alive and leading the Zetas.

Mexican authorities rank Lazcano as a violent murderer. It's even rumored that in one of his properties he has wild animals, such as tigers and lions, which he has occasionally fed the bodies of his victims, especially federal agents.

The Missing Bodies

The Making and the Murder of a Mexican Cartel KingpinS

After El Lazca and his men were killed, their corpses were allegedly stolen from the funeral home in Sabinas. The group, which remains unknown, were armed and using the funeral home's own floats. Because of the disappearance of the bodies, the credibility of any information surrounding his death and the bounty has been tarnished.

The responsibility for the missing body falls under the jurisdiction of Governor Rubén Moreira Valdez. According to the Marines, the Coahuila government will be held accountable for the disappearance of the body of the most important cartel kingpin captured by the federal government. Moreira is already involved in the scandalous execution of his nephew, government employee Eduardo Moreira, son of his brother Humberto, a former governor and leader of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

A Zeta Successor

Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, "The Z-40," is identified as El Lazca's successor to lead the Zetas and continue with the group's history of extreme violence. The man also known as "El Judas" is characterized for dismembering his enemies or setting fire to them while still alive, mainly those from the Sinaloa Cartel.

El Z-40 is also wanted in the US on charges of murder, drug trafficking, and dealing.

It is widely believed that the death of El Lazca could weaken the Zetas, but Treviño Morales is a man of experience (he was recruited by Osiel Cárdenas himself) and knows the organization's power when it comes to fighting the federal government and its rivals. His alliance with the Beltrán Leyva brothers is precisely intended to lessen the power of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, which they have achieved by taking over markets that belonged to the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful cartel in Mexico.

With the death of El Lazca, it is speculated that "Los Caballeros Templarios (The Knights Templar)," acting under orders from El Chapo, will try to attack the Zetas by launching a push to eliminate Miguel Ángel Treviño.

The death of Heriberto Lazcano will undoubtedly provoke rearrangements in the structure and perhaps divisions of the Zetas. They could even be weakened by the absence of their natural leader, but unfortunately for the government, other cartels will take advantage of the situation to become stronger and gain more markets. The fight against drug trafficking is seemingly endless.

Translated by Peisin Yang Lazo. Images courtesy of Alarma!, AP.

Miguel Angel Rodriguez Vazquez has been editor of El Nuevo Alarma! since 1981.