Sunday, April 18, 2010

El Azul ("you're my boy, blue")

Proceso has another good story this week, profiling Juan Jose Esparragoza-Moreno, aka, El Azul. (Link in title)

For those who don't know him, he's the powerful man behind the power couple of El Mayo and Chapo. One could even make a good case that El Azul is actually the most powerful narco of all.

In the 90s, he forged a strong alliance with the Juarez cartel. He was so powerful – and known for his preference for profit above all else – that he managed to be No. 2 in the Juarez cartel and No. 3 in the Sinaloa cartel at the same time, according to the authorities.

For years, as Proceso points out, he's been a skillful operator: he's very discreet and not prone to outbursts or violence. He's never attracted too much attention (Proceso says that he was second on the FBI list of most-wanted, only Osama bin Laden outranked him – but I have never seen him placed so high so am skeptical, especially as the Proceso article also gets El Azul's age-relationship with Chapo and El Mayo wrong) and thus has been able to operate without the law enforcement pressure his partners and rivals garnered.

But that doesn't mean he hasn't been game for a bit of bloodshed in the interest of preserving his business. In early 2000, El Azul – infuriated by DEA moves against his operations – threatened retaliation against US law enforcement and US facilities inside Mexico, according to then-DEA Chief of International Operations William Ledwith.

He, Chapo and El Mayo made a similar threat in 2009, this time threatening to attack US law enforcement and/or facilities inside the US itself, according to the US Department of Justice.

Clearly, El Azul has no qualms about tackling his opponents head on. The guy should not be underestimated. I'd love to read more from Proceso on him, if they have anything to add.

PS - El Azul got his nickname ("Blue") because his skin is darker than many of his narco-counterparts, and at times is said to appear almost blue. Apparently, racism exists in the drug trafficking industry, too.

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