The corpse remains at large.
Homero Ramos, the top prosecutor in the border state of Coahuila, where Lazcano was killed, showed photographs purportedly depicting the outlaw’s pale, bloated, dead face and added that fingerprints of the deceased’s right thumb and forefinger supported the positive identification.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said it was still awaiting confirmation that Lazcano is indeed dead.
The authorities have been wrong before. In a case that turned triumph into embarrassment, a man whom Mexican marines captured, paraded before cameras and described in June as a smuggling kingpin and son of Sinaloa drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman turned out not to be his son at all, but a used car salesman.
If it survives scrutiny, the death of Lazcano, also known as “El Verdugo,” or the Executioner, will be a major victory for outgoing President Felipe Calderon, who has made the capture and killing of top mafia bosses the main focus of Mexico’s five-year drug war.
But the fact that the drug lord’s body could be snatched by masked gunmen shows how far Mexico still has to go to control the lawlessness that has left more than 60,000 Mexicans dead as drugs continue to head north of the border.
Lazcano’s apparent death was applauded by U.S. law enforcement agents, who have provided intelligence on the whereabouts of top Zetas members and pushed Mexico to press its assault against one of the world’s most successful criminal organizations.
An especially cruel paramilitary cartel, the Zetas operate a diversified portfolio that includes not just drug trafficking but also extortion, kidnapping, video piracy and the theft of billions of dollars in oil and gas from Mexico’s state petroleum company. The Zetas have promoted their image as the most bloodthirsty cartel in Mexico by releasing videos on the Internet showing their members interrogating, torturing and beheading rivals with machetes and chain saws.
According to the Mexican navy, whose marines have been among the most effective in Calderon’s capture-or-kill strategy, Lazcano and a driver were spotted Sunday at a baseball game in the small town of Progreso, about 75 miles west of the Texas border city of Laredo.
The navy said its marines were acting on reports of armed men in the area and sent out a patrol. When the marines confronted Lazcano, it said, the Zetas opened fire and began tossing grenades at them.
According to the state prosecutor, Lazcano was shot while running from his disabled vehicle. The navy said its marines found rifles, a grenade launcher and a dozen grenades in the truck.