General José Silvestre Urzúa Padilla, the National Guard coordinator in Zacatecas, was shot dead on Thursday during a clash with an organized crime group.
The shootout took place in Los Pinos, a municipality near where Zacatecas borders with San Luis Potosí and Aguascalientes. It began on Thursday morning and continued into the afternoon. At least four other members of the security forces were injured during the confrontation.
At his morning press conference on Friday, President López Obrador paid tribute to the murdered general and emphasized that actions were underway to detain his killers.
“Army forces have been mobilized since yesterday, with many elements deployed to the area to confront this gang,” he said. “The leaders responsible, those who ordered the aggression, have already been identified … In the confrontation, one or two of the aggressors lost their lives and three or four were arrested.”
The governor of Zacatecas, David Monreal Ávila, sent condolences to the general’s family and reemphasized the state’s commitment to tackling organized crime.
“We will not rest in the struggle to pacify the state and confront criminality, the desire to which the general gave his life,” he said in a tweet.
General Urzúa Padilla assumed the leadership of the Zacatecas National Guard in January of this year. At the time of his death, his unit was carrying out a search and arrest operation against a criminal group in Los Pinos, in response to local demands to address rising kidnappings and the corruption of local police forces.
In October, Governor Monreal had ordered security forces in Zacatecas to redouble their efforts to contain criminal violence in the state.
Zacatecas’ homicide rate increased by more than 400% between 2015 and 2021, driven largely by competition between the Sinaloa Cartel, Jalisco Cartel and several local gangs for control of lucrative drug trafficking routes and fentanyl production areas. Exactly a year ago, AMLO implemented Plan Zacatecas II, deploying more than 1,900 soldiers and 1,600 agents of the National Guard to the state to reinforce security.
AMLO has also ordered that all operations against organized crime be directed by senior military commanders, rather than lower-ranking officers. During Friday’s press conference, he insisted this policy would continue, despite Urzúa Padilla’s death.