The body of Heriberto Lazcano, the former leader of the Zetas drug cartel in Mexico who was killed by government troops, was reportedly stolen by an armed gang, according to reports.
Lazcano’s corpse was being stored in a funeral parlor in northern Mexico near where he was shot down by marines.
Lazcano helped found the Zetas around the turn of the millennium after deserting with a group of operatives in the Mexican Army special forces.
Initially, the group had served as enforcers for the long-established Gulf cartel, carrying out assassinations and protecting drug shipments. In 2010, the Zetas turned on their former employers and established themselves as an independent drug trafficking organization.
Since the split, the Zetas have begun edging the Gulf cartel out of northeastern Mexico, a gang war that has resulted in hundreds of killings, displaying the Zetas’ signature brutality of placing decapitated heads on spikes and leaving rows of headless bodies by the roadside.
Roughly 50,000 people have been killed since outgoing President Felipe Calderon began his military campaign against the drug cartels in 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported. The civilian population is often caught up in the violence as innocent bystanders and victims of extortion, and is often targeted by cartels for the purposes of intimidating others to remain silent on their criminal activities.
Calderon’s administration has claimed the majority of deaths comprise criminals in the drug trade, but fewer than 5 percent of the homicides have ever been investigated, according to political activist and author Tom Hayden in his article "Mexico's Election: A Vote for Peace, a Plan for War," for the Nation magazine.
Critics often point to Calderon’s “kingpin strategy” of targeting cartel bosses as being a major contributor to the surge in violence driven by infighting within cartels as new leaders emerge and an escalation of turf wars among the constant atmosphere of violence.
President-elect Enrique Pena-Nieto, due to take office in December, has said he intends to decrease the violence, though details have been vague.
He has indicated that he intends to recall the 50,000 military troops that have been deployed under Calderon and build up the national police force to focus less on engaging cartels in combat and commit to filling the security void left by corrupt local law enforcement.
Critics contend that the violence has already escalated to a point where the cartels will not cease their strategy of mass intimidation of the civilian population and confrontations will be unavoidable.