HomeNewsBriefSinaloa Cartel Leader ‘El Azul’ Dead? ‘El Mayo’ Now In Control?
BRIEF

Sinaloa Cartel Leader ‘El Azul’ Dead? ‘El Mayo’ Now In Control?

EL AZUL / 9 JUN 2014 BY KYRA GURNEY EN

The Sinaloa Cartel has reportedly lost “El Azul,” one of its two remaining leaders, as well as another key member running operations in northern Mexico, although so far the cartel  has maintained its cohesion in the face of similar losses. 

Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias “El Azul,” allegedly died of a heart attack on June 7 while recovering from injuries sustained during a car accident, reported Riodoce.   El Azul is one of the Sinaloa cartel’s remaining top leaders — after the capture of Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” in February — the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has been offering $5 million for his arrest since a 2004 indictment.  

On the day Esparragoza died, Mexican authorities arrested Juan Carlos Lopez, a key Sinaloa Cartel operative in the northern state of Chihuahua. Lopez had allegedly controlled the cartel’s operations in this state since November 2011 and trafficked cocaine and synthetic drugs to the United States, reported Diario las Americas

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of “El Chapo” Guzman in February left Esparragoza and Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo,” in charge of the organization. In spite of losing its top leader, however, the Sinaloa Cartel appears to have maintained internal cohesion. Although there have been reports of infighting among cartel operatives in Honduras, Guzman’s capture did not unleash the type of internal battles that often results from a loss of leadership. 

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

Part of the reason for this unity may be the fact that the top leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel are linked by blood and marriage, which has likely made the group more resilient. Esparragoza was married to Guzman’s sister-in-law, for example, and is supposedly godfather to one of Zambada’s sons.  

A former police detective, Esparragoza also reportedly played a key role in brokering peace agreements between rival cartels and helped Guzman continue his business operations while he was imprisoned in Mexico. When Guzman escaped from prison in 2001, Esparragoza became one of the leaders of the organization. 

Mexican cartel leaders have been known to fake their own deaths in order to relieve pressure from security forces. A notorious example of this was the case of Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias “El Chayo,” of La Familia Michoacana, who was believed killed in a shoot out in 2010, but who turned up in a gunfight in March 2014, where he was, finally, killed.

SEE ALSO: El Azul profile

It remains to be seen whether Esparragoza’s death and Lopez’s arrest will spark any internal conflict, although judging from the lack of fall-out after Guzman’s capture, the Sinaloa Cartel may well be able to weather this storm as well. 

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America's largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 10 JUN 2019

Government-regulated crocodile and turtle farms have helped reduce illegal hunting and protect endangered species, but the illicit trade continues.

GULF CARTEL / 5 NOV 2012

Gun battles reportedly between rival gangs in the border city of Reynosa over the weekend left nine dead and suggest…

HEROIN / 27 MAY 2016

In testimony before Senate Foreign Relations Western Hemisphere subcommittee, InSight Crime Co-Director Steven Dudley discussed some common myths and the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…