American Plan To Divide and Multiply Mexico’s Drug Cartels

DrugTraffickers are restructured into 28 Cartels-ZETA

Borderland Beat Reporter Chivis

From Zeta Weekly and  posted on BB Forum by Havana
Written by: Rosario Castro Mosso and Enrique Mendoza Hernández

Traffickers are restructured


At the end of Vicente Fox’s term, Mexico had seven cartels, while President Felipe Calderon recognizes only 11 criminal organizations in 2011. Leaders of thugs converted into little bosses , divided and struggled for criminal control in the 32 states of Mexico. It is known, they are killing and denouncing one another. As are armed wings, are dedicated to all crimes: the movement of drugs, domestic sales in Mexican municipalities, kidnapping, extortion and trafficking in persons, without that the big mafias can not control them.

The federal government constant hits on the drug cartels have caused reorganization, admitted in May 2008 by the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón.

Indeed, since December 2006, each time you stop a capo comes three or even 10 more trying to replace him. This multiplying effect has generated cell operation, usually as assassins, whose ambition and betrayal, end up converting into little “cartelitos” fighting for territorial control and expansion of drug trafficking.

Of the seven drug cartels operating in Mexico with the arrival of the Calderon administration in 2006, pruning has brought forth a multiplication by 400 percent. Currently governments are coordinated fighting at least 28 criminal groups.

Besides the large cartels, recognized by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), as the Arellano Felix, Colima, the Juarez, Sinaloa, the Gulf, the Millennium and Pedro Diaz Parada.

Now authorities and society must confront not only drug trafficking but the kidnapping of people, extortion of businesses, and murders committed by these cells empowered by thugs:

Los Zetas
Los Matazetas
Cartel del Acapulco
Gente Nueva
Cartel del Pacifico Sur
Cartel de Acapulco 
Cartel de Guadalajara
Cartel del Centro Narco 
Cartel de Jalisco Nuevo Generation 
Cartel del Milenio
La Familia Michoacana
Los Caballeros Templarios
The Pelones
Los Gueros
La Barredora
Los Aztecas
La Linea

In Baja California, Three are Los Teos and independent groups of Guadalajara and Los Aboytes in the State of Mexico and the Anthrax in Sinaloa, and a number of criminal groups that the PGR announced in 2011, are on the verge of annihilation.  The truth is that of the 28 of the registered groups of drug traffickers ZETA , noticed during his “Message to mark the fifth year in office,” on December 8 in Monterrey, Calderon only recognized 11 cartels: Gulf, Zetas, La Familia, Pacific, New Generation Jalisco Cartel, La Resistencia, Beltrán Leyva, Arellano Felix Juarez, Knights Templar and La Barbie.

Baja California and the CAF

This fragmentation of Mexican organized crime, which has encouraged the expansion of cartelitos, most extensively the Sinaloa cartel, Juarez, Gulf and Los Zetas, arrived in Tijuana.

First, Eduardo Garcia Simental revealed “El Teo”, chief of the armed wing of the Arellano Felix Cartel (CAF), which since 2006 Fernando Sanchez Arellano “The Engineer” remained in charge after the capture of Javier Arellano Felix alias “EL Tigrillo” .

With the support of José Soto “El Tigre” which came from the Sinaloa Cartel, the transfer of marijuana goes big, start a fight against the nephew of the Arellano, born “Los Teos” and the arrival Sinaloa cartel based in Mexicali, Alfredo Arteaga and / or Arzate, in late 2009, early 2010, Sinaloa won the Plaza de Tijuana, becoming drug supplier of all cells of the CAF, and a kind of independent dealers cartel headed by Ismael “El Mayo “Zambada and Joaquin” El Chapo “Guzman.

Also arise “The Achilles”, which operate directly for the dealer and opens the door for the arrival of other lieutenants of Sinaloa, as Gustavo Inzunza, “El Sergio” and Cenobio Flores “El Checo”.

Precisely in the midst of the struggle generated from 2008 and before or up to the weakening of the CAF, in the last two years, the presence of La Familia Michoacana in the state increased, showing an increase in captures.

In fact, during the first half of 2010 ( ZETA edition 1877), the authorities detected the presence in Tecate of Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, better known as “El Chango”, who had his headquarters no more and no less than in The Rumorosa. He was arrested in Aguacalientes, June 2011 as leader of the family allied to los Zetas.

In the coastal zone of Baja California, paid plaza “The Engineer”, but the thugs of “Achilles” began to kill and were denounced by the authorities.

Another presence that has been highlighted is that of independent groups Cartel de Guadalajara, they also pay plaza and to CAF and operate with low-key, sheltered by Manuel López Núñez “Don Balas.”

During 2011, only the State Preventive Police (PEP) captured 304 criminals from Jalisco, Michoacan and Sonora.

As tenants and concessioners of the Sinaloa cartel, oat least seven cells that are accountable to Fernando Sanchez Arellano still operating in the coastal zone of Baja California, led by “Pelioni”, “The Kieto”, “El Mostro”, “Chikako “Manuel Núñez López” “Don Balas” “Mario Montes de Oca” El Mario “,” El Turbo,”, ” El Bibi ” and Melvin Gutierrez Quiroz” “El Melvin “, besides” “El Camacho “or” “El Marino “.

Pacific Cartel or Sinaloa: Strengthened

Currently regarded as the richest and most powerful drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman heads this cartel with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, whose presence was reported this year by U.S. authorities, in Central and South America and Europe. “The Mexican cartels have become transnational organizations with the power to influence U.S. elections and are the new face of organized crime, worse than the Italian mafia,” as Joaquin Guzman “is the world’s most dangerous criminal, and probably the richest, with unsurpassed power to influence, corrupt and kill” They will be noticed this month and last month by the news agency EFE ,the director of the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in Chicago, Jack Riley.

The criminal group was born in the late 80s, when Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo distributed the Pacific route after his capture.

As armed services who subsequently began operations as little cartelitos, have :

Gente Nueva

After the death of “Nacho” Coronel in Zapopan, on July 29, 2010 and the subsequent emergence of the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion independent of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, fought Jalisco Cartel Nueva Generacion and Los Zetas through the criminal group known as Gente Nueva.

Gente Nueva operates in Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Veracruz, where “El Chapo” disputes the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, for control of the coveted port of Veracruz and Boca del Rio. In fact, the killing of 35 people in Boca del Rio, September 20, 2011, was attributed (through narcobanners firms with the bodies) to this group.

Los Artistas Asesinos and los Mexicles

In Chihuahua, particularly Ciudad Juarez, Noe Salgueiro, one of the founders of Nueva Gente, until last October led to groups of thugs and Mexicles identified as AA and Mexicles, who heads some 20 000 young people under 20 years, integrated murderous gangs that control the drug smuggling routes and transporting.

Los Gueros

Identified since early 2000, the brothers Rodriguez Olivera, originating in Jalisco, operating with Sinaloa from Cancun to Texas and are currently targets of the Department of the Treasury of the United States as drug cartel leaders of money laundering.

Cartel de Juarez

Founded by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, “The Lord of skies” is one of the most powerful in the country. It is dedicated to the traffic of cocaine and marijuana, but allows the passage of heroin through its territory in exchange for shares of narcotics.

Separated from the Sinaloan Cartel, this cartel has also had its tentacles across the country and has presence in over 21 the almost 32 states, through the various little cartelitos:

La Linea and Los Aztecas

In Ciudad Juarez is the armed wing of the Juarez Cartel, which has allowed them to retain the criminal plaza, composed of tens of thousands of youths from Juarez, originally an offshoot from the El Paso prison gang, Barrio Azteca . They are enemies of Los Artistas Asesinos and operate on both sides of the border.

Los Beltran Leyva and Cartel del Pacifico Sur

They began as operators of the Juarez Cartel. In the beginning of millennium, they were protected by Guzman Loera , but since 2004 they began to operate semi-independently. In 2008 they split from the Sinaloa cartel because “El Chapo’s” people betrayed Alfredo Beltran Leyva “EL Mochomo” and he was captured.

In December 2009, after the death of Arturo Beltran Leyva, the group responsible for Valdez Edgar “La Barbie” and the Beltran left as head of what has since been identified as the South Pacific Cartel, a group blamed for the murder of son the poet Javier Sicilia.

Central Cartel

They were part of the armed group Pacific Cartel, to weaken and separate from “Barbie”, become independent and integrated into two groups that control the criminal activity in the center of the country: one led by Adrian Ramirez “El Hongo” and Jose Jorge Balderas Garza “JJ”; the other Oscar by Osvaldo Garcia Montoya “El Compayito”, the same as they who call themselves The Hand with Eyes. All are arrested, but supplemented by other gunmen who were eagerly awaiting their chance to finally become bosses.

Los Negros

Independent of Edgar Valdez, were a group of thugs who until August 2010 operated mainly in Morelos and Guerrero, when their leader was captured. Then again divide: Los Negros were under the command of the father of “Barbie”, Carlos Montemayor Gonzalez “El Charro”, arrested in November.

Cartel Independient de Acapulco (CIDA)

The armed group led by Isidro Juarez Solis “El Kirry” Gilberto Morales Castrejon “Commander Gil” and Benjamin Flores “El Padrino”, created the Cartel de Acapulco identified as responsible for the kidnapping and murder of 20 tourists from Michoacan. Their main enemy of Cartel del South Pacifico and La Barredora.

La Barredora

Another group that emerged from the division of cartel “La Barbie”, self-identified as La Barredora, led by Eder Jair Carbajal Sosa “El Cremas,” Christian Tarin Hernandez “The Chris” and Victor Manuel Rivera Galeana “El Gordo”, all captured and supplied to the end of this year.

This group arose because Moses Montero, Carlos Barragan and Isidro Juarez Solis, attempted to kill “El Chris”.

The original cartel operated from 60s to late 80s, headed by Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo , sharing in the early 90s, giving rise to the cartels operating in the Pacific and center of the county.

Until July 29, 2010, when Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel was killed in Jalisco, he led the cartel de Guadalajara, then it came under the charge of Beltran Uriarte. Currently detained in this wing of organized crime are identified as independent, but has emerged as a rebel group known as:

Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generacion

After abatement by the military in Zapopan on July 29, 2010 in “Nacho” Coronel (leader of the Sinaloa cartel in Jalisco), opened up the emergence of the New Generation Jalisco Cartel (CJNG) of the hand of Margarito Soto Reyes “El Tigre”, the successor of Colonel.

During the second half of 2010, the CJNG accustomed to displaying narcomantas on the streets of Guadalajara to make themselves known. The criminal cell La Resistencia de Jalisco dispute la plaza.. It has lost its leaders: the nephew of “Nacho” Coronel, Mario Carrasco Coronel, “El Gallo”, killed July 30, 2010, Margarito Soto Reyes, who was arrested by the army on September 27 of that year on July 10 2011, another nephew of “Nacho” Coronel, Colonel Martin Beltran “El Aguila”.was arrested by the military in Zapopan

Currently Nemesio Oseguera” “El Mencho” directs the CJNG, still legacy of “Nacho” Coronel and some relatives of the latter.

La Resistencia

The depletion by the military in Zapopan, on July 29, 2010, by Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel (leader of the Sinaloa cartel in Jalisco) and the extradition of Oscar Orlando Nava Valencia (leader of Cartel de Milenio), Jalisco became in a war zone between the Jalisco Cartel and La Resistance.

In turn, the resistance is made up of Cartel del Milenio, La Familia Michoacana and the Gulf Cartel.
The resistance was led by Victor Manuel Torres García “The Papirrín”, arrested on February 28, 2011 by the Federal Police.

La Resistancia was currently operates in Jalisco, Michoacan, Mexico State and Federal District. It is headed by Elpidio Mojarro “Don Pilo” and “El Melon” and aims to “align and clean the place” of the invasion of Los Zetas.

Neither the state government PAN nor President Felipe Calderon, can bring order to Jalisco: 2 000 535 executions in the current federal six-year period.

Cartel del Golfo

Cartel de Gulfo (CDG) is one of the oldest criminal organizations in Mexico, having its heyday in the 80s and 90s, when it was led by kingpin Juan Garcia Abrego in the states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz, After his arrest on January 14, 1996, Osiel Cardenas Guillen takes the lead until his arrest, which occurred on March 14, 2003, since then his brother, Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, has led the criminal organization.

During Felipe Calderon’s war against organized crime, Ezequiel Cardenas, was killed in Matamoros on November 5, 2010 was killed by members of the Navy. Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez “El Coss” assumed control of the Gulf Cartel.

Los Rojos and Los Metros

After the separation of the Zetas from the Gulf Cartel in December 2009, The latter, CDG, was armed with two branches: The Reds, very close to the Cardenas family (Rafael Cardenas, a nephew of Osiel and Ezekiel) and The Meters, faithful to Eduardo Costilla.

Recently, on November 30, Ezequiel Cardenas Rivera, 23, scion of Ezequiel Cardenas Guillen, was arrested by the Navy in Matamoros.

Los Zetas

An extremely bloody cartel, Los Zetas originally were the enforcement arm of Gulf Cartel, led by Osiel Cardenas Guillen, however, according to the arrested assassins while reporting to the Attorney General in December 2009, they broke with allies because of differences in the control of markets and routes.

Led by former military man, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano “The Lazca”, Los Zetas were disputing and vying for control of the routes of transfer of cocaine from Colombia, originally controlled by the Gulf Cartel.

In the clash between “Zetas” and “CDG” in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz, ZETA has documented 4,767 deaths between 2010 and 2011, ie 7.8 percent of executions of a total of 60,420 in which ranging from six years of President Calderon, have occurred in these three areas.

Currently Los Zetas fight not only for dominance in Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Veracruz, but has become the second largest criminal organization in the country, disputing control in most of the country the Sinaloa Cartel.

Los Matazetas

Hoods and military fronts, armed with “goat horns”, dressed in black. The Matazetas refer to themselves. The paramilitary group officially came to half of the administration of President Felipe Calderon in 2009, when an anonymous call to the Offices of Special Investigations into Organized Crime (SIEDO) warned: “Cancun and Veracruz, and begin to remove Zetas, because citizens are fed up with crime. ” The emergence of Matazetas coincidentally matches in the same year that the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas were divided.

Undoubtedly, the fact that marked a watershed event in the identification of the paramilitary group was when, in a video posted on YouTube, Los Matazetas claimed the killing of 35 people found Sept. 20 in Boca del Rio, Veracruz.

The paramilitary group calling itself the “armed wing of the people” or “faceless warriors,” issued in the video: “Only fighting on equal terms can we eradicate the roots of the cartel Los Zetas. And for this we ask the authorities to support us to stop … and that society we do not rely on extortion not kidnap or affected property. ”

They say: “Our focus is on Los Zetas, we respect the armed forces and powers of the state.” To date, mysteriously the neither intelligence apparatus of the states nor the government of President Felipe Calderon, has led to the arrest of any paramilitary Los Matazetas.

La Familia Michoacana

Originally, from 2006 LFM was an armed group of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas in the state of Michoacan to fight the Cartel del Milenio of the Valencia Brothers or the Purepecha land of Milenio.

After Felipe Calderon won the presidency of the Republic on July 2, 2006, a month of taking office in November of that year, LFM, working for the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas, declared their independence. From then on, they used to send messages to their adversaries and the authorities, through banners in public places in Michoacan cities, even in the midst of the same “Operation Michoacán”, launched for six years alongside the president of the country.

La Familia Michoacana leadership emerged Esteban González “M5”, Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas “El Chango Méndez” Arnoldo Rueda “La Minsa” (detained on July 11, 2009), Enrique Plancarte “La Chiva” Servando Gomez “La Tuta” and Nazario Moreno “El Chayo” (killed by the army on December 9, 2010). On the death of “El Chayo” followed the emergence of another cartel in Michoacan.

Los Caballeros Templarios

A month after the death of Nazario Moreno, Servando Gomez “La Tuta” and Enrique Plancarte , the Knights Templar criminal group, formed in January 2011 due to the differences they had with “El Chango Méndez”.

It was released through narcobanners in various cities in Michoacan, among them Morelia, Zitacuaro and Apatzingan.

The Knights Templar signed: ” We inform the society, Michoacan society and make it known that from today (March 2011) we’re here performing altruistic activities previously performed by the La Familia Michoacana.”

Some of the goals embodied in the Knights Templar narcobanners, are similar to those of Matazetas: “save and keep order, prevent theft, kidnappings, extortions, the fact that the government of President Calderon can not guarantee security in the country.”

Cartel del Milenio

In the decade of the 70s, Jose Valencia bored by avocados cultivation was looking for better inroads into the more prosperous marijuana business back in the fertile Aguillas municipality, in Michoacan which he found. The cartel reached its peak in the 80s and 90s, due to its links with former Medellin Cartel in Colombia.

At the beginning of the first decade of the new millennium, the SIEDO considered the cartel as a “lower band” due to the arrest of its leader, Armando Valencia, August 16, 2003.

The Cartel del Milenio lost the hands of the Gulf Cartel to one of their leaders, Ventura Valencia Valencia on April 17, 2007. Later, Oscar Nava Valencia “El Lobo” was arrested on October 28, 2010 by the Army and extradited to the U.S. on January 29 this year. Finally, on May 6th, the army also arrested Jose Luis Nava Valencia, who said his name was Francisco Javier Orozco Villasenor and Victor Hugo Nava Lopez.

Despite the killings and arrests, the government of President Calderon can not stop the cartel goals, on the contrary, now it is led by Eric Valencia and Salvador Urena Revueltas, among other killers.

Cartel de Oaxaca

Also known as the Cartel of the Diaz Parada, Oaxaca Cartel or the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, was founded in the 80s by Pedro Diaz Parada “El Cacique Oaxaqueno”, arrested on January 17, 2007 by soldiers and federal police .

Barely 6 May, the federal government announced the arrest of a woman and two men from the Diaz Panoja, from the Pedro Diaz Parada family.

According to the PGR, the Cartel de Oaxaca operates in that state Oaxaca and Guerrero, and their areas of influence extends to Veracruz, Chiapas, Tamaulipas, Durango, Chihuahua and Mexico City.

Cartel de Colima

Established by Jose de Jesus and Adan Amezcua Contreras in the late 80s, while all cartels were entertained by the culture of marijuana and cocaine transport, this pair of brothers wasted no time and since at least 1988, chose to enter in the business of the modern production of synthetic drugs: ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and phenylpropanolamine. They earned the nickname “Kings of Ecstasy.” and were arrested in 2004.

The port of Manzanillo is the largest recipient of anti-influenza precursors from Asia and Europe for the production of synthetic drugs for export.

Like the Tijuana Cartel, in that behind the nickname Arellano is Enedina Arellano, the Colima Cartel is led by Patricia Amezcua, incidentally, the sister of Jose de Jesus and Adan.

Finally, both within the Sinaloa Cartel, Juarez Cartel, Gulf Cartel, Cartel de Milenio, Cartel de Oaxaca and Cartel de Colima, provides its armed divisions.

The trend is clear: cells led by relatives of the founders of the cartels against armed wings of the same, but who are not their relatives. A clear example is the Gulf Cartel, its armed, the red (close to the family Cárdenas Guillén) and meters (led by Eduardo Costilla) are antagonistic groups and are about to split, so we see that the number of cartels soon grow to more than 28 during the last year of President Felipe Calderon.

In addition to the multiplication of groups, neither have the captures affected the flow of drugs. The number of marijuana users in over 12 years in the United States grew from 14 million in 2007 to over 17 million in 2010, according to a national survey in that country. In Mexico, the percentage of users of the herb has quadrupled in the last 12 years, according to a report issued in February 2011 by the Secretary of Federal Public Safety, Genaro Garcia Luna, the Congress, based on the World Drug Report of the Organization United Nations (UN), which records 3 million Mexicans who use this drug.

The truth is that, while President Felipe Calderon recognizes only 11 criminal organizations, the reality is that Zeta has registered 28 separate criminal groups. That is, if in 2006 the PGR recognized seven cartels and in 2011 the weekly notices 28 criminal organizations, the average annual rise of “little cartelitos” is 4.2 percent.

If criminal division is still happening and keeping the same pace, by the end of his sixth year, Mexico will have more than 30 separate criminal organizations.

Link to original article in Zeta (the link has had problems today on and off)

Afghanistan Expels 30 Radical “Clerics” for Preaching Anti-Government Revolution

Over 30 ‘Pakistani clerics’ expelled from Afghanistan

The religious scholars were accused of inciting rebellion against country’s US-backed government. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Afghan security officials have expelled over 30 ‘Pakistani clerics’ from mosques in southern Kandahar province over ‘provocative speeches’ to encourage people for an ‘uprising against the government’, an Afghan official told The Express Tribune on Tuesday.

Hamdullah Nazak, governor of district Dand in Kandahar, said that Pakistani clerics had come from Balochistan and had no valid documents. “When the authorities asked them to provide documents and prove their identity, they failed,” Nazak said via phone from Kandahar.

He said Afghan authorities took action against the Pakistani ulema after they received information that they were encouraging people to stage a rebellion against the US-backed government in Kabul.

“We launched a campaign against Pakistani clerics and expelled all those who were leading prayers and delivering sermons without permission and without documents,” Nazak added.

The district governor also said most of the Pakistani clerics arrived in Kandahar from Balochistan’s Muslim Bagh area. Nazak added that authorities also passed on information to Afghan intelligence officials about some of the clerics.

He claimed that there are still several religious scholars in Afghanistan who have arrived from Pakistan without any documents, adding that action will also be taken against them.

“They are involved in the dissemination of negative speeches to mislead people, which is unacceptable,” Nazak said.

Afghan officials, tribal elders and members of the Senate Defence Committee met in Kandahar on Tuesday and discussed the security situation in the province and the governors expressed concern over the illegal presence of clerics from across the border in mosques, according to the local media.

Mamoon Durrani, an Afghan journalist who covered the meeting, told The Express Tribunevia phone from Kandahar that the district governor also accused the chief of the government-backed clerics’ council of his failure to take action against Pakistani ulema for their anti-government speeches.

Nazak told the meeting that the Taliban are fighting against the government with the help of these Pakistani ulema, according to Durrani.

He said that the meeting was also told that the Afghan Taliban have asked locals to cultivate poppy in some districts in Kandahar to glean tax from them. Governor of Jarai District, Niaz Muhammad Sarhadi, claimed in the meeting that a member of the Quetta Shura, Jabbar Agha, led a Taliban delegation which travelled to several districts in Kandahar to encourage people to grow poppy.

The decision to expel Pakistani clerics comes in the wake of increasing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, exacerbated by cross-border attacks. President Hamid Karzai harshly criticised Islamabad at a press conference in Kabul earlier. Pakistan angrily reacted to the Afghan president’s remarks, and termed them ‘misplaced and without any basis’.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2012.

[SEE:  Mexican Navy Special Forces Kills Leader of Los Zetas]

Mexico capo killed, then body stolen by gunmen

By E. EDUARDO CASTILLO and ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON Associated Press
This undated photo released by Mexico’s Attorney… ((AP Photo/Mexico Attorney General’s Office))

MEXICO CITY—The death of the founder and leader of Mexico’s brutal Zetas cartel in a firefight with marines outside a baseball game near the Texas border was perhaps the biggest coup of President Felipe Calderon’s war on drugs.But triumph turned to embarrassment when authorities lost the body.

Officials still haven’t found the remains of Heriberto Lazcano, which were snatched from a funeral home and whisked away by gunmen in a hijacked hearse hours after the Zetas strongman died in a hail of gunfire in the town of Progreso in Coahuila state.

Asked how the body could be stolen, Interior Secretary Alejandro Poire suggested Tuesday that there might have been a lack of coordination between the military and civilian authorities. Under Mexican law, military forces must turn evidence, bodies and suspects over to civilian prosecutors.

“We have to improve coordination, to avoid this type of incident,” Poire said. “But there is no doubt about the identity of this person.”

Authorities said that assurance was based on fingerprints and photos taken while they still had the body. The navy released two photos showing the puffy, slack face of a corpse whose features, particularly his flaring nostrils, appeared to match the few known photos of Lazcano.

The fallen capo was an army special forces deserter whose brutality and paramilitary tactics transformed a small group of drug cartel enforcers into one of the world’s most feared international

criminal organizations. Analysts say his death could set off a power struggle inside the Zetas as its relatively autonomous local cells decide whether to align with its remaining boss, Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, a man considered even more ruthless and brutal than Lazcano.

The killing is also expected to intensify the Zetas’ war with the country’s other dominant criminal organization, the Sinaloa cartel controlled by Mexico’s most-wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

At the center of the two cartels’ struggle is Nuevo Laredo, a violence-torn city across from Laredo, Texas. More freight crosses there than anywhere else along the U.S.-Mexican border, making it one of the most valuable smuggling routes in the world.

“There will be a shootout at the OK Corral over Nuevo Laredo,” predicted George Grayson, an expert on the Zetas and co-author of “The Executioner’s Men: Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs and the Shadow State They Created.”

Calderon, who leaves office in two months with the six-year-long war on drug the signature of his presidency, stopped short of unreservedly declaring Lazcano dead, but said evidence clearly indicated the Zetas founder had been slain. He proudly proclaimed that 25 people on a 2009 list of Mexico’s 37 most wanted drug lords have now been killed or arrested.

The president also praised the marines, the security force responsible for most of the highest-profile take-downs of top level drug bosses in Mexico. Many of those operations were launched in cooperation with U.S. officials, who see the marines as more trustworthy and competent than other Mexican military and law enforcement agencies.

In an emailed statement, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said only: “We have seen reports of the possible death of Heriberto Lazcano. We are awaiting confirmation of those reports.”

But the body’s disappearance demonstrated the unchecked control that drug gangs maintain over large swaths of many Mexican states six years into a struggle that shows little sign of abating.

Coahuila state Attorney General Homero Ramos said that around 1 p.m. Sunday outside a baseball stadium in Progreso, marines spotted a suspicious vehicle that had previously been seen with armed men inside.

The marines ordered the vehicle to stop and the men inside opened fire, setting off a gunbattle. The driver was killed in the vehicle. The other man fled and was shot approximately 900 feet away, dropping an AR-15 assault rifle with an attached grenade launcher, Ramos said.

Officials also found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with two projectiles, two fragmentation grenades and a variety of firearms in the vehicle, Ramos said.

One man’s driver license identified him as a 44-year-old resident of the nearby city of Sabinas. The other body had no ID. The bodies were taken to a funeral home in Sabinas and investigators took their fingerprints and photographs, officials said.

Early Monday morning, Ramos said, a group of armed men raided the funeral home and forced the director to drive the hearse with the corpses to another location. He did not offer further details.

Ramos and the Mexican navy said the fingerprints of one of the dead men were later found to match Lazcano’s, although they did not say when that discovery was made.

The body, if it ever turns up, could finally be laid to rest in the town where Lazcano reportedly spent his childhood, in central Hidalgo state. Residents of a working-class neighborhood where Lazcano was raised in the city of Pachuca, north of Mexico City, say a mausoleum was built for him there, near a chapel he built for the community in 2009.

The chapel bears a bronze-colored plaque reading: “Donated by Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, Lord, hear my prayer.” The plaque also says the chapel was built in honor of Pope John Paul II. While there is no firm confirmation the mausoleum was also built by Lazcano, its style is strikingly similar to the chapel, and locals say it was built for the drug capo.

The mausoleum has a 15-foot (5-meter) high chrome metal cross, identical to the one that stands in front of the chapel. The modernist tomb also has stained glass windows of figures such as red roses, the Virgin of Guadalupe and the sun’s rays and clouds. A rectangular hole, possibly for a coffin, is near the windows, beneath a crucifix.

Lazcano was born in 1974, according to the U.S., or 1975, according to Mexican officials.

Also known as “El Verdugo” (the Executioner), Lazcano was credited with bringing military tactics and training to the enforcement arm of the once-powerful Gulf Cartel, then splitting from his former bosses and turning the Zetas into one of the country’s two most potent cartels.

The Zetas were the first Mexican cartel to publicly display their beheaded rivals, most infamously two police officers in April 2006 in the resort city of Acapulco. The severed heads were found on spikes outside a government building with a message signed “Z” that said: “So that you learn to respect.”

Under Lazcano’s leadership, the Zetas carried out many of the most notorious crimes of Mexico’s drug war, which had at least 47,500 deaths before the government stopped releasing official figures in September 2011.

Among atrocities blamed on the Zetas are the massacre of 72 migrants in the northern state of Tamaulipas in 2010; the escape of 151 prisoners in 2010 from a jail in Nuevo Laredo; the recent flight of 131 prisoners in the city of Piedras Negras; and the slayings of U.S. ICE Agent Jaime Zapata in 2011 and U.S. citizen David Hartley in 2010 on Falcon Lake, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Zetas are also believed to be behind the killings of hundreds of people who were buried in mass graves at the site of the 2010 massacre of migrants.

Most recently, the cartel was linked to last week’s assassination of the nephew of the governor of Coahuila, a slaying that prompted the federal government to dispatch additional troops, federal police and criminal investigators to the state. Some local officials said they believed the killing may have been carried out by Trevino, the other Zetas top boss, in revenge for the killing of his own nephew by an elite state police force the same day.

Grabbing the bodies of fallen accomplices is a trademark of the Zetas, who have retained some of the tactics and institutional culture of the military deserters who founded the group, Grayson said.

“The Zetas take care of their dead,” he said. “El Lazca was special forces. There is an esprit de corps, like the Marines. They never leave a comrade behind.”

Mexican authorities have announced a string of arrests of high-profile Zetas figures in recent months, and have said they believe a rift had emerged between Ivan Velazquez Caballero, a Zetas leader known as “El Taliban” nabbed by authorities last month, and Trevino, a Zetas capo known as “Z40” who has a reputation for being even more brutal. It was not clear which side Lazcano was on.

On Monday, the Mexican navy said it had arrested a regional leader for the Zetas, Salvador Alfonso Martinez, or “Squirrel,” and believed he was involved in many of the Zetas’ worst crimes. The high-profile arrests yield intelligence for other arrests, experts say.

Marines also recently caught the heads of the two main factions of the Gulf Cartel: Jorge Eduardo “El Coss” Costilla Sanchez and Mario Cardenas Guillen.

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Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez, Michael Weissenstein and Katherine Corcoran contributed to this report.