False Alarm: 'El Chapo' still Chicago's public enemy No. 1

FILE - In this June 10, 1993, file photo, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leader of Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, appears for reporters after his arrest at the high security prison of Almoloya de Juarez on the outskirts of Mexico City, from which he later escaped. Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, 31, was arrested Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, at San Diego's San Ysidro port of entry and charged with fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents. Two U.S. officials said Monday, Oct. 15, that she told authorities her father was Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the arrest publicly. (Damian Dovarganes, File)

February 27, 2013 11:12:05 AM PST
Notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman has evaded detection for more than a decade and once escaped in a laundry cart. Friday, Guzman apparently avoided death without even breaking a sweat.

How? He wasn't there.

A Guatemalan official is contradicting earlier reports on Friday and says that there was no evidence Chicago's Public Enemy Number One was cut down in a firefight on the Mexican border. Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla now calls such reports a misunderstanding.

Minister Bonilla told local media that the confusion followed eyewitness accounts from residents in San Valentin near the location where a skirmish between drug cartels was said to have gone down. However, on Friday, soldiers and police scanning the area found no sign of any confrontation.

"I apologize if where was a misunderstanding," Lopez told the Guatemalan radio station Emisores Unidos. "It was a mix-up. We were referring to information generated from the area that there was possibly a crime scene with a dead person resembling El Chapo. As of now, we have no verification," Lopez said.

From a nation of rich, powerful and heavily armed drug magnates, only Guzman had the distinction of being recently named as Public Enemy Number One by the Chicago Crime Commission and the local head of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

'El Chapo,' which means 'Shorty,' is 5 ft 6 in tall but wields a force far beyond his puny stature. He commands a network of cocaine and heroin producers, processors and distributors and counts Chicago as his major American hub. The empire of 'El Chapo' is worth at least $1 billion according to Forbes magazine.

Federal drug agents say Guzman, 58, is the Chicago market leader in illicit drug sales. His Sinaloa cartel uses the city as the center of a spoke and wheel business they say, dispatching street sellers across the country. Many of his top dealers are recruited from Chicago's street gang membership-numbering more than 100,000 according to investigators.

Law enforcement officials in Chicago began monitoring reports filtering out of northern Guatemala early Friday. Chicago authorities said they had faint optimism that Chapo had been killed after government spokesman Francisco Cuevas said that two drug gangs had clashed, at least two men had died in the shootout and one of them resembled the cartel boss.

By midday, neither police nor press representatives-including an Associated Press photographer-could find any signs of a shootout or victims.

In addition to be a most wanted criminal suspect in Mexico, Guzman is also under indictment in Chicago. Federal drug enforcement agency officials say 'El Chapo' has surpassed the infamous drug lord of the 1980s, Pablo Escobar, in both notoriety and the scale of his international operation.