Borderland Beat from EL PAÍS Translation: Dyane Jean François Posted by Nuttz
El Azul worked in a business in which a typical boss wears gold chains, keeps a Lamborghini in the garage and a pet leopard by his side. But he always kept out of the limelight. Perhaps Juan José “El Azul” Esparragoza Moreno died just as discreetly as he lived. A high-ranking Mexican official told EL PAÍS that the government is trying to confirm whether the best-known of the great Sinaloa drug lords – a key member within the organization – really died of a heart attack last Friday. He was supposedly cremated on Saturday in a secret ceremony open only to family members.
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán made the Forbes list of the richest men in the world. The Mexican journalist Julio Scherer interviewed the legendary Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. El Azul, the third pillar of the powerful Sinaloa mafia, has always kept a lower profile. His file at the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) describes his activities as “unknown.”
El Azul’s nickname came from his appearance. His skin was so dark that his friends said he was blue. Despite being a wanted man in Mexico since 1998 and in the United States since 2003, Esparragoza Moreno has managed to outlive several generations of drug lords who ended up dead or in prison.
Unlike other capos, El Azul’s supposed death was nothing spectacular. Río Doce, a local newspaper, said he had an accident and suffered severe injury to his hip 15 days ago. On Friday, he had a heart attack as he tried to get up from his bed. His family informed the paper of his death, the article said. El Azul was 65 years old.
Mexican authorities have not confirmed the death. Although they say it is “a rumor,” they have opened a joint investigation with the DEA. “It’s not easy to ascertain whether the ashes belonged to El Azul. His relatives could be trying to trick us so we stop looking for him,” the Mexican official said.
Esparragoza Moreno made it into the cartel history books long ago – when drug trafficking was almost nothing but a rural business controlled by village thugs. He and other top bosses, like El Chapo and Caro Quintero, were raised in Badiraguato (Sinaloa). El Azul opened a grocery store when he was a teenager and later proved himself to be a skilled livestock trader. At 22 years old, he joined Amado “Lord of the Skies” Carrillo Fuentes and his fleet of small aircraft in carrying large quantities of drugs to the United States. He showed that he was a skilled merchant early on as he handled Sinaloa deals with Colombian cartels, whom the Mexicans needed to deliver cocaine on the other side of the border. He became known as a man who sought consensus.