© Copyright The Brownsville Herald 2011
The top leader of the Zeta criminal organization was killed Friday in a Matamoros firefight with rivaling Gulf Cartel, sources close to the newspaper have reported.
Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano Lazcano was reportedly killed in a gun battle on the streets of Matamoros Friday afternoon.
Gunfire erupted shortly after 2 p.m., throughout the city as the two forces clashed. Sources claim Lazcano was killed at an area near Avenida Del Niño and Lauro Villar.
U.S. officials confirmed the firefight and said the international bridges in Brownsville remained opened Friday. They were on alert to any gunmen or Mexican residents attempting to flee the gunfire in Matamoros after a street battle broke out about a mile south of the Rio Grande, officials said.
A U.S. official said they have similar information as to Lazcano's death but had not confirmed whether it is true.
An official with Mexico's attorney general's office said they were investigating word that Lazcano was dead.
This is the second gun battle between the two cartels in as many days. On Thursday, the Gulf Cartel captured 11 alleged Zeta hit men in the downtown area of Matamoros. Sources said the squad of six men and five women were part of a larger group of up to 60 Zetas who attempted to seize control of the plaza, or drug corridor.
Wednesday, Matamoros residents went to sleep with the sound of automatic weapons fire, grenade explosions, screeching tires and sirens after a large number of Zetas made their way into the city shortly after midnight. Although causalities were reported, an exact number has not been released.
The Herald received information that at least 13 people were killed in the Thursday encounter, with 11 individuals captured. Details were not known.
There was no indication that Friday’s gun battles and the killing of Lazcano had anything to do with the February murder of Jaime J. Zapata, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent who was killed in the state of San Luis Potosi, purportedly by the Zetas.
But a U.S. professor, George W. Grayson, had predicted in the wake of Zapata’s slaying that there would be severe repercussions against the Zetas for the murder.
Grayson said at the time that one possible outcome would be the capture or death of Lazcano and/or Miguel Angel "El 40" Treviño, the two most prominent Zeta leaders.
He said the capture of the Zeta leaders could, potentially, put the Zetas out of business or significantly cripple them.
Grayson has written more than 20 books and monographs on Latin American politics and narco-violence. He is a regular lecturer at the U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been offering a $5 million reward for information that leads to Lazcano’s arrest; Mexican authorities have been offering a $2 million reward.
Lazcano, also known as "El Verdugo," Spanish for executioner, was named in a superseding indictment in June 2009 alongside other Mexican drug-trafficking bosses for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States.
The indictment dates to when the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas were close allies. That relationship broke up in February 2010, and the two sides have been enveloped in a bloody turf war across northeast Mexico.