A former police detective, Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno, alias “El Azul,” was the go-to facilitator for peace deals between rival cartels in Mexico. Among his colleagues in the Sinaloa Cartel, Esparragoza maintained the lowest profile. He reportedly died in June 2014 from a heart attack.
Esparragoza was a former police detective turned drug trafficker who served as an ad hoc negotiator and conciliator amongst drug trafficking clans. Although not as well known as his partners Ismael Zambada Garcia, alias “El Mayo,” or the now imprisoned Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo,” his history in the drug trade was just as long. He started out with the Guadalajara Cartel and may have played a role in the death of the Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena in 1985. He was jailed for seven years, and released in 1992. He later joined forces with the Juarez Cartel and worked under Amado Carrillo Fuentes until Carrillo’s death in 1997.
El Azul Factbox
DOB: February 3, 1949
Group: Sinaloa Cartel
Criminal Activities: Drug trafficking
Status: Reportedly died of heart attack in June 2014
Area of Operation: Western and Northwestern Mexico
While Guzman was in jail, Esparragoza helped him maintain his business. After Guzman escaped jail in 2001, Esparragoza became part of the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, which includes Zambada. He was the central link in family ties between the groups, and was often appointed mediator in their conflicts. Esparragoza married Guzman’s sister-in-law, and was the godfather of Amado Carrillo Fuentes’ son and one of Ismael Zambada’s sons. One of his sons is married to the daughter of one of the Beltran Leyvas.
Beyond playing a key role in leading and directing the Sinaloa Cartel’s drug trafficking operations, Esparragoza was also an important mediator between Mexican cartels.
Esparragoza spent his criminal career working for the Guadalajara, Juarez, and Sinaloa cartels, organizations based in western and northwestern Mexico, but that nonetheless have an extensive transnational presence.
Allies and Enemies
Given extensive family ties and inter-marriage among high-profile cartel leaders, Esparragoza was allied with the likes of “El Chapo” Guzman and Ismael “El Mayo” Garcia.
Esparragoza reportedly died of a heart attack on June 7, 2014 while recovering from injuries sustained during a car accident. However, Mexican cartel leaders have been known to fake their own deaths in order to escape pressure from government forces.