The captured son of Sinaloa Cartel leader "El Azul" has testified his father is dead, but his statement is unlikely to stamp out rumors the drug lord is still alive and well, in what could easily build into Mexico's next big narco-conspiracy.
While pleading not guilty to drug trafficking charges, Jose Juan Esparragoza Jimenez, alias "El Cora," stated that he was the son of the "deceased" Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias "El Azul," reported Excelsior.
El Cora was arrested in Culiacan, Sinaloa on August 20 during a military operation and charged with drugs and weapons violations. According to the Interior Ministry, he belongs to a criminal group in Sinaloa state that produces methamphetamines, and traffics methamphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana to the United States, reported El Informador.
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News that El Azul had died of a heart attack while recovering from a car accident emerged this June, but his death has yet to be officially confirmed and rumors that he is still alive persist. Following the capture of "El Chapo" Guzman in February, El Azul became one of the Sinaloa Cartel's two remaining leaders -- along with Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias "El Mayo" -- a position that undoubtedly increased pressure from security forces. This could feasibly have prompted the aging drug lord to fake his death to ease the pressure or escape into retirement.
SEE ALSO: El Azul Profile
While these are nothing more than rumors at this time, El Azul's alleged death could become the latest addition to a series of similar narco-conspiracy theories -- at least one of which turned out to be true.
The original story of a drug lord faking his death involves Amado Carrillo -- known as the "Lord of the Skies" for his fleet of airplanes. Carillo's supposed death in 1997 from a reaction to anesthesia after undergoing plastic surgery has never been accepted by many. The rumors have been fuelled by strange occurrences, such as the brutal murder of the surgeons who operated on him.
Since then there have been several other rumored faked deaths, including that of El Azul's one time Sinaloa Cartel partner Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, alias "Nacho Coronel," who supposedly died in July 2010 but is also rumored to be alive and well.
While the truth behind most of these stories will likely never be known, in the case of messianic drug lord and Familia Michoacana founder Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, alias "El Chayo," the conspiracy theories proved to be true. El Chayo was reported killed in a gun battle in 2010, but in reality continued to run operations in the state of Michoacan until he was actually killed in a shootout with security forces in March 2014.