Guatemala checking Mexico drug lord death

Officials investigating whether Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman died amid clashes between forces and traffickers near border.
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2013 09:24
Guzman has been named Chicago's 'Public Enemy Number One' the first person to receive the title since Al Capone [AP]

Guatemalan authorities are investigating whether Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was killed in a clash between traffickers and its forces in Peten near the border with Mexico.

Officials on Thursday said fingerprints and photos were taken to determine whether Mexico's most wanted man was dead in the gunfight in a jungle area of the Peten Department. The information was being cross-checked with Mexican authorities.

"The first information we have is that it could be him," Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez told local radio, cautioning that authorities could not be "100 percent" certain.

The gunfight occurred in Peten near the border with Mexico

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said he had no information yet to confirm whether Guzman was killed and that he was "hoping to get some information" soon.

Meanwhile, Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong told reporters that the government was in contact with Guatemalan officials, but he too said there was as yet no information to confirm whether Guzman had died.

Mexican military sources told the AFP news agency that officials were headed to Guatemala to try to identify the dead.

Agencia Guatemalteca de Noticias, the state-run Guatemalan news agency, said that security forces preliminarily reported the death of two people and the discovery of vehicles and weapons in the hamlet of San Valentin.

But Defence Minister Ulises Anzueto said earlier that he had no information confirming a clash between soldiers and drug traffickers and that he lacked evidence to corroborate that Guzman was in Peten.

Prison escape

The Sinaloa drug cartel leader has been in hiding since escaping from a Mexican maximum security prison in 2001. He had been captured in Guatemala in 1993.

He is the most wanted man in Mexico, and the US has offered a $5m reward for information leading to his arrest.

Last week, Chicago named him the city's "Public Enemy Number One" the first criminal to receive the moniker since US gangster Al Capone.

Al Jazeera’s John Hendren, reporting from Mexico City, said Guzman is allegedly involved in a drug operation that spans as many as 140 nations.

"He is known as the Bill Gates of drug distribution. He has allegedly owned the pipeline from the fields of poppy and cocaine all the way to the distribution in places like Chicago," Hendren said.

The drug war has left more than 70,000 people dead in Mexico since 2006 as warring cartels battle each other and security forces.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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