With Zetas Decimated, Sinaloa Cartel has Won the War

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The end of Zetas boss Heriberto Lazcano is part of a long list of Mexican drug traffickers whose “death” provoked more questions than answers, argues David Martinez-Amador. And his disappearance will help nobody more than the Sinaloa Cartel.

In Mexico, there are two ways that big capos can decide to end their career. They can make a surrender deal, as happened with Juan G. Abrego (leader of the Gulf Cartel before Osiel Cardenas), and more recently with “La Barbie” — detentions where not a single shot was fired. Alternatively, they can fake their own deaths and go into retirement. There will simply be no corpse, or when there is one, the vital statistics will not fit. Now, I’m not saying that this is the case with Heriberto Lazcano. The debate for me is whether Z-3 was murdered or committed suicide.

Within Mexico’s narco-world, this is a valid question. Take the case of Arturo Beltran Leyva, the head of the Beltran Leyva Organization, who was killed by the navy in 2009. His left arm and shoulder had been completely removed, turned to puree, by what appeared to be a HKP-7 pistol. This weapon is of exclusive use of the navy. The blast tears and deforms whatever it touches, due to its hollow-point bullets. 

[Read InSight Crime’s blow-by-blow account of the takedown of Beltran Leyva here]

What makes the Beltran Leyva case more interesting is that Beltran’s trousers had been lowered, something the security forces do to immobilize detainees. In essence, it seemed as if Beltran was murdered in cold blood, while putting up no resistance. Faced with this kind of attack, the Mexican drug traffickers use the famous “cop-killer” pistol, the “five-seven” (5.7x28mm), which can pass through a bullet-proof vest at 200 meters like a knife in butter. There is simply no way to stop it.

From what has been written about Lazcano’s death, his confrontation with the navy seems similar, though the photographs of his “corpse” do not show the same type of mutilation from the blast. It makes sense, then, to ask whether this is the right body.

Let’s not forget the case of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel (killed by the Mexican Army on July 29, 2010). The data from the autopsy did not fit with the official descriptions of the “King of Synthetic Drugs,” who was third in command of the Pacific Organization, or Sinaloa Cartel. The body was much younger and taller than Nacho’s would have been.

If this alleged death seems strange, we should remember that, when Mexico and Cuba broke off relations in 2004, the Fidel Castro government requested that Amado Carrillo Fuentes (the “Lord of the Skies”) leave the island. He had, supposedly, died during failed plastic surgery in a hospital in the Mexico City in 1997.

[See Mexico’s top 10 Narco conspiracy theories here]

President Felipe Calderon began his time in the presidency striking hard blows against the enemies of the Sinlaoa Cartel. He killed Arturo Beltran, locked up Hector Beltran, and detained La Barbie. He weakened the Gulf Cartel, killing Antonio Cardenas Guillen (“Tony Tormenta”) in an operation that left more than 300 dead; and detained, without a shot, Eduardo Costilla “El Coss,” who had been left in charge of the cartel.

Now Calderon’s government is coming to its end, still showing supreme loyalty to the Sinaloa clan. Its last enemies, the Zetas (who “El Gallo de Oro” calls “Los quemados” in his songs), have been hit harder by the government than any other cartel. This administration has killed more than 25 Zetas leaders, fragmenting the group, and, it appears, got rid of even Lazcano.

In Culiacan, they must be offering up their thanks to Calderon. The Sinaloa Cartel today emerges as the only cartel to be left intact, without its historic leaders setting foot in prison, and its arrangements with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) party laid bare. They are the winners of the war.

“Saciamorbos,” the latest book by Carlos Loret de Mola, recounts a conversation between Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera and Enrique Peña Nieto, in which the former accuses the “beautiful governor” of protecting Beltran Leyva cartel hitmen. “From now on, your life is in my hands. You will not become president,” said the Lord of the Sierra. I wonder, will Peña Nieto arrive at the presidential residence, or will he make a deal with his life?

Republished with permission of the author. See Spanish version on Plaza Publica.

*David Martinez-Amador is University professor of the course of blood rituals in secret societies, cults, sects, fraternities and mafia in Mexico and Guatemala.

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