02/25/13 – After a confusing flurry of media and government reports at the end of last week, the Guatemalan government has confirmed that Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Mexico’s most wanted person and the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, was not killed in a gun fight, as initially reported. On February 21, media outlets and social media websites began circulating a rumor that there had been a skirmish between Guatemalan security forces and armed criminals in Guatemala that had resulted in the death of El Chapo. Authorities later confirmed that military personnel had indeed been involved in a shootout that left two suspected criminals dead, but did not offer insight as to whether either was El Chapo. Just one day after the news broke, however, Guatemalan state officials retracted, stating that they had been unable to verify the existence of the reported firefight after intense investigation by government agents in the region, and thus discarded the possibility that El Chapo had been killed on their soil.
Guatemalan officials explained that they received most of their early intelligence from locals of San Valentin–the village in the El Peten region of Guatemala near the Mexican-Guatemalan border where the alleged firefight took place–and, after conducting investigations, they have been unable to confirm the existence of any shootout between security officials and armed men. At this time, neither Mexican nor Guatemalan officials have given the event any importance or further validation. Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López apologized for the misinformation and confusion, adding that his office relied “excessively on the testimonies of local villagers, who had said that they had seen a clash between the army and drug traffickers,” reports ABC News.
Guatemala has been experiencing an escalating level of drug-related violence as Mexican cartels have begun to move their operations to Central America in an attempt to expand their operations to safer territories hidden within the jungles in the area. Some sources claim that the heavily wooded El Peten region has been overrun with agents of the Sinaloa and Zetas cartels, and suggest that Guatemalan officials have been unable to effectively cope with the expansion of the Mexican cartels into their territory.
As the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, El Chapo is one of Mexico’s most notorious and well-known drug traffickers, and has been considered one of the world’s wealthiest men by Forbes magazine various times. After escaping from federal prison in 2001, Guzmán has become Mexico’s most wanted man, and continues to lead the Sinaloa Cartel from hiding.