With the arrest of suspected Los Zetas cartel leader Raul Lucio Hernandez Lechuga -- also known as Z-16 and El Lucky -- on Sunday, Mexico's President Felipe Calderon added another tally on his side of the scorecard for his war on drug trafficking.
The Navy caught 'Lucky,' founder of the Zetas and regional leader in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Puebla. One of the 37 most wanted, Calderon announced using his Twitter feed.
Before the arrest, Hernandez-Lechuga was wanted in both Mexico and the United States, and each country had a bounty on his head for $1 million.
Los Zetas are one of Mexico's largest, most powerful and violent drug cartels. Using their vast network, they smuggle drugs up from South and Central America, through Mexico and into the United States. Often described as a paramilitary organization, they are a ruthless group who use violence as a first course of action and fiercely defend their territory.
The cartel was founded by 30 ex-Special Forces soldiers, including Hernandez-Lechuga, and a number of Guatemalan Kaibiles, the special operations force responsible for a number of atrocities during that Central American country's civil war. Los Zetas, among many other brutal attacks, was responsible for the Monterrey Casino fire that killed 52 people in August.
As always, Mexican authorities dragged Hernandez-Lechuga into a press conference on Monday and displayed him in front of a room full of reporters and flash-bulbs, along with a treasure trove of supplies, including dozens of confiscated guns, ammo clips, walkie-talkies, solar panels used in radio communication systems and bullet-proof vests with the letter Z embroidered on them.
Hernandez-Lechuga is wanted on trafficking charges, as well as charges stemming from the kidnapping and murder of nine marines in Veracruz, the state where he managed regional Zetas operations. He was captured with four other suspected gang members.
With the arrest, Calderon has captured 22 of the 37 most wanted criminals in Mexico. In spite of that, many in Mexico wonder if the victories were worth the price.
Since Calderon took office and began his militarized crackdown against the drug cartels, some 50,000 people have been killed in an explosion of violence.
Despite public outcry, Calderon has vowed to keep using the army, navy, marines and police to fight against crime until the end of his presidential term next year.
The first obligation of a government is to guarantee the security and the rights of the citizens, Calderon said in a national address earlier this month. We have done that, and we are going to continue defending the citizens until the last day of my term.
“Those who say that it would’ve been better not to confront the criminals are roundly mistaken,” Calderon added.
“If we hadn’t done this, the criminals would have advanced on our societies and institutions.”