Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was dead Thursday. Now he’s not.
The Mexican drug boss apparently is alive and well, and probably laughing at thousands of Twitter users and even government officials who reported otherwise.
He was never really dead, or even in peril, but the rumors of his demise started slowly on Thursday thanks to journalists in Guatemala and Mexico.
An email exchange about an incident in the remote jungle region of El Peten that might have involved El Chapo began to permeate diplomatic circles.
The Interior Minister of Guatemala told journalists that a firefight between drug dealers and the military had resulted in the death of two suspected criminals.
“There was a clash between Guatemalan security forces in (the town of) San Francisco,” Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez said Thursday, adding, erroneously:
“Two died. One of the deceased is physically very similar to El Chapo.”
Cue the Twitter reports of El Chapo’s death, spreading like wildfire.
Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre said at that point of the night, the government was getting ready to conduct forensics tests to identify the two corpses.
Yet later on the same night, Guatemalan officials said they weren’t even sure that the supposed gunfight against the drug dealers had even occurred.
Officials also said that military units were patrolling the area to see if they could find any signs of a gun battle between the army and drug traffickers.
They did not.
On Monday morning, after no El Chapo had been found, Lopez apologized for the government’s blunder on local radio station Emisoras Unidas.
He said confusion arose because of over-reliance on testimonies of local villagers, who said that they had seen a clash between the army and drug traffickers.
He said too many “contradictory” pieces of information came to officials at once, but Ioan Grillo, a journalist and drug war analyst, had another theory:
“My reading of Chapo Guzman drama: a snitch called and said Chapo died in firefight,” Grillo tweeted. “Guatemala pleased with news tells before confirming.”
Whatever happened, with regards to this most recent case, there is some reason to believe that El Chapo Guzman is in Guatemala at this time.
WikiLeaks suggests that El Chapo is hiding in El Peten, where Mexican cartels have managed to gain a stronghold over drug trafficking routes.
Previously US DEA officials have suggested that El Chapo hides in a mountain range in western Mexico, that straddles the states of Durango and Sinaloa.
Stay tuned … and stay off Twitter for news.