After killing a man they claim was Lazcano in a firefight this month — but then promptly losing possession of his body — Mexican officials are trying to get permission to exhume Lazcano’s late parents in order to prove, by use of DNA tests, that the man who was felled in a hail of bullets outside of a Coahuila baseball stadium really was him.
The Mexican Navy insists it is “100% certain” that it was Lazcano, leader of the notorious Zetas cartel, who was slain in the shootout in the border state of Coahuila. But government officials have had a hard time convincing the public that they got their man, because the body was stolen shortly after the shooting by armed commandos, who snatched the corpse from a funeral parlor in the middle of the night.
Naval officials say that a fingerprint match confirms the body’s identity (the prints were taken before the body was stolen, they say). But the doubters run from everyday Mexicans, many of whom have a taste for conspiracy, to ex-President Vicente Fox, who said recently that the story seemed like a tough one to swallow. [link in Spanish]
The missing body has become an embarrassment for the administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon, which should have been able to count Lazcano’s slaying as an unalloyed victory in its war on the narco gangs. Instead, Mexican papers have been full of withering jokes at its expense — one cartoon recently made reference to the popular zombie TV series “The Walking Dead” — and bizarre info-graphics comparing photos of the face of the living “El Lazca” with the bloated, dead face that is supposed to be his as well.
Enter into the mess an assistant federal prosecutor, Cuitlahuac Salinas, who said in a news conference Wednesday that while experts were “certain” they had identified the body, they were trying to get the proper permits to dig up Lazcano’s parents in the state of Hidalgo, in order to “obtain their genetic profile.”
It is not clear what genetic material officials have of Lazcano’s to use for comparison purposes. Before joining the Zetas, the drug lord was a member of the Mexican army. He also spent some time in a Mexican jail.
Salinas said his office was also trying to find Lazcano’s living sisters, as well. But in this case, at least so far, the living have proved as elusive as the dead.
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-- Richard FaussetPhoto: The Mexican Navy released this photo Oct. 9 saying it was Heriberto Lazcano, founder of Zetas drug cartel. Credit: Mexican Navy / EPA