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The curious case of El Lazca's body

Authorities in the past day have collected tissue samples from relatives of Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, founder and jefe supremo of the furious Los Zetas crime gang.

Why are they doing this?

Lazcano was allegedly gunned down Oct. 7 near a baseball field in the dusty town of Progreso in Coahuila state, but authorities let the body slip out of their grasp less than half a day later. Gangsters broke into a mortuary and stole the body.

Authorities have sworn up and down that the man a naval infantry unit killed is indeed Lazcano, widely known as El Lazca. President Calderon, Interior Secretary Poire, U.S. Ambassador Tony Wayne and others have all affirmed this, saying fingerprints on file matched those of the body.

Yet still they feel compelled to test either tissue or blood from the dead man (perhaps from bloody clothing left at the mortuary) with the DNA of Lazcano’s relatives.

This latest development is likely only to fuel doubts about the case, which are running high. The Parametria polling firm released a survey today taken Oct. 13-17 shows that only one out of four Mexicans believes that the navy killed Lazcano Oct. 7.

I traded emails this morning with Scott Stewart, the VP for tactical intelligence for Stratfor, and he, too, has some doubts. Here’s part of what he wrote:

"If this is about public opinion then why not just release the fingerprint charts? To me that seems a lot easier than exhuming bodies and most people would consider fingerprint matches to be sufficient evidence. Fingerprints, especially a comparison of a complete set of prints seems far less controversial than DNA matching.

I am also wondering if this exhumation is not some sort of strange retribution for Lazca's body being stolen."


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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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