Crime and Violence

Key leader in Sinaloa Cartel believed to have died from heart attack

Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, also known as "El Azul." Photo: WRadio.
Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, also known as “El Azul.” Photo: WRadio.

06/12/14 (written by akearns) — Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, “El Azul”, is believed to have died from a heart attack on Saturday, June 7, as first reported by weekly newspaper Río Doce and re-reported across Mexican national media outlets. Río Doce’s initial report came from anonymous police sources and individuals close to the drug trafficker’s family. However, authorities have not yet confirmed his death, as, according to Proceso, Esparragoza’s associates and close friends are keeping rather silent on any related information.

According to Río Doce, Esparragoza (65) had been hospitalized about 15 days prior to his death due to a car accident that seriously injured his vertebrae column. Several sources speculate that on June 7, Esparragoza attempted to get up from his hospital bed and upon doing so, suffered a heart attack. Some sources reported that he died in Guadalajara, Jalisco and others in the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF). Reports also say that Esparragoza’s ashes were taken to Culiacán, Sinaloa on June 8. Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) and Center for Investigation and National Security (Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional, CISEN) have since launched an investigation into the matter, seeking to clarify if Esparragoza did indeed die, and the circumstances surrounding his death.

After the February 2014 arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Esparragoza was believed to be one of two remaining power players in the Sinaloa Cartel, but has kept a low profile throughout the years by maintaining a reputation as a “conciliatory” figure, with the ability to negotiate with rival cartels and corrupt government officials, reports The Guardian. Esparragoza spent more than 40 years involved in drug trafficking and worked with many well-known bosses such as Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo, Rafael Caro Quintero, “Don Neto” Fonseca Carrillo, and Amado Carrillo Fuentes “El Señor de los Cielos.” Although considered one of the more “discrete” figures in Mexico’s drug trafficking scene, Esparragoza was ranked on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, second only to Osama Bin Laden in 2005. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) also had a $5 million dollar (USD) reward out for his arrest. If confirmed, Esparragoza’s death would solidify Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada’s role as the outright leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.


Neri, Antonio. “Falleció Juan José Esparragoza “El Azul” líder del cártel de Sinaloa en Guadalajara.” WRadio. June 8, 2014.

Redacción. “Muere de un infarto Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, el ´Azul´.” Río Doce. June 8, 2014.

Redacción. “Reporta Ríodoce que el narcotraficante “El Azul” murió de un infarto.” Proceso. June 8, 2014.

Redacción. “Investigan PGR y Cisen posible muerte del Azul Esparragoza.” Río Doce. June 9, 2014.

Tuckman, Jo. “Mexico drug kingpin Juan José ‘el Azul’ Esparragoza believed to have died.” The Guardian. June 9, 2014.

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