By Miguel Hernandez
The Associated Press
A suspected top operative of the brutal Zetas drug cartel died Wednesday during a confrontation with Mexican security forces in a city in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz
It was one of several developments throughout Mexico linked to the grinding battle between drug traffickers and the state.
Leonardo Vazquez, alias "El Pachis," died in the city of Poza Rica during an operation by members of the military and federal, state and local police, said Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte de Ochoa in a statement.
One federal police officer was wounded during the gunfight in the city about 155 miles (250 kilometers) north of the capital, said Ochoa and the federal Attorney General's office.
Authorities say Vazquez was responsible for overseeing operations in the Papaloapan basin zone, which includes parts of Veracruz and Oaxaca.
His death was another blow to the Zetas following the capture of alleged founding member Flavio Mendez Santiago, alias "El Amarillo," announced on Tuesday.
Two other suspected members of the drug cartel also were taken into custody during the chaotic hours-long confrontation in Poza Rica that authorities said began when a car carrying three people refused a command to stop at a military checkpoint.
A car chase and gunbattle ensued and, at some point, the suspects fled on foot into a commercial plaza where they took refuge, the governor said.
The plaza was surrounded by military and police, and the shoppers, business owners and others were evacuated as security forces searched for the suspects.
Authorities did not say whether Vazquez died in the car or elsewhere.
Ochoa said in his statement that the situation was "under control" and that his government would not shrink from the fight against drug traffickers.
"We know it's going to be difficult, but it's the only way to preserve peace and tranquility for Veracruz's citizens."
Other developments reported Wednesday throughout Mexico included:
- The federal Attorney General's office said Gerardo Alvarez Vasquez, a top drug trafficking suspect linked to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel, probably participated in the 2008 slaughter of 24 people in a suburb of Mexico City. Vasquez, alias "El Indio," was charged with homicide in the slayings, according to an official who was not authorized to be quoted by name.
- Gunmen toting high-powered weapons shot dead two police officers, a man and a woman, in Guadalupe, a suburb of the industrial city of Monterrey, in a daylight attack, said local police Chief Ismael Franco.