Mexico City – Army soldiers have detained two alleged leaders of the Los Zetas criminal gang, one of them suspected of involvement in a shootout outside a stadium that forced the suspension of a professional soccer match, Mexico's defense department said Wednesday.
Renato Patiño Martinez, Zetas' chief in Matamoros, a city in the northern state of Coahuila, was arrested Sunday at a military checkpoint.
Patiño is the purported leader of a cell of Zetas gunmen suspected of homicides, kidnappings and acts of extortion throughout the Comarca Lagunera region, which comprises parts of Coahuila and neighboring Durango state.
He also allegedly participated in a shootout in late August outside the Territorio Santos Modelo stadium in Torreon, Coahuila, during a live broadcast of a first division soccer match between the Santos and Morelia clubs.
Terrified players ran into the dressing rooms and spectators darted on to the field, assuming the gun battle was happening inside the stadium, and soccer officials eventually cancelled the match.
The soldiers seized a rifle, quantities of crack and powder cocaine, marijuana and a vehicle from Patiño.
On Monday, military forces detained Jorge Alejandro Cortes Aguilera and Santiago Maciel Rodriguez Velazquez, two other suspected Zetas in Comarca Lagunera.
Cortes is responsible for the Zetas' operations in Francisco I. Madero, Coahuila, and coordinates "the criminal activities carried out in the city of Torreon," the defense department said.
The military suspects the Zetas cell led by Cortes was responsible for the Nov. 1 attempting kidnapping in Torreon of Mayte Aguirre, wife of federal Sen. Jose Guillermo Anaya Llamas.
After their arrest, the troops seized a handgun, a grenade, quantities of cocaine and marijuana, communications gear and a vehicle.
Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, known as "El Lazca," deserted from the Mexican army in 1999 and formed the Zetas with three other soldiers, all members of an elite special operations unit, becoming the armed wing of the Gulf cartel.
After several years on the payroll of the Gulf cartel, the Zetas went into the drug business on their own account and now control several lucrative territories.
The cartel has been blamed for several massacres in recent years.
The Zetas was accused of being behind the Aug. 23, 2010, massacre of 72 migrants, the majority of them from Latin America, at a ranch outside San Fernando, a city in the northern state of Tamaulipas.
The cartel has also been blamed for the massacre of 27 peasants in May at a ranch in Guatemala's Peten province, which borders Mexico and Belize.
Zetas gunmen set fire to a casino in the northern industrial city of Monterrey on Aug. 25, killing 52 gamblers and employees trapped inside, most of whom died of smoke inhalation.