Trained and nurtured under the protection of Amado Carrillo Fuentes and now considered among the most important leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel Villarreal in two decades has become one of the major drug lords in the country and has, according to Robert Mueller, head of the FBI, the power and ability to create his own cartel.
The DEA and FBI, for years on the trail of “Nacho”, say that he is untouchable and has operated with almost complete impunity throughout his career.
In little more than two decades, Coronel has consolidated his position as the fourth most important man of the Sinaloa cartel and has expanded his activities in the large scale traffic of drugs from South America to the United States and several European countries and controls major routes of the booming drug trafficking business.
Also known as Valdez Ignacio Urrutia, Dagoberto Rodríguez Jiménez, Nacho, The Engineer and the King of Ice, Coronel is part of the Federacion de narcotraficantes (the Federation) headed Joaquin Guzman Loera “El Chapo Guzman”, who in March 2009 Forbes magazine labeled a billionaire and one of the richest men in Mexico.
Like his peers, Coronel is secretive and often takes refuge in mystery. Some official documents recorded who was born on February 1, 1954, although no mention of the place. The PGR maintains that he is originally from Canelas, Durango. An FBI report dated April 17, 2003, that offers a reward of $ 5 million for his capture states he from the state of Veracruz.
Few photographs of Nacho Coronel exist. He is described as having brown hair, brown eyes, fair skin color and a weight of approximately 145 pounds. His occupation is described as “a businessman”.
In the 1980’s, Colonel began his criminal career as the leader of the Juarez cartel in the state of Zacatecas. He worked at that time under the shadow of Amado Carrillo Fuentes “the Lord of The Skies” and Eduardo González Quitarte “El Flaco” .
After the death of Carrillo Fuentes, Coronel, Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno “El Azul” and Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada broke away from the Juarez cartel and joined the Sinaloa cartel, which regained its status as Mexico’s top cartel in 2001 after El Chapo Guzman’s escape from prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco.
At that time Coronel was associated with Luis Valencia Valencia, head of the cartel del Milenio and the Beltran Leyva brothers. Years later, when the Beltran Leyva brothers broke away from Guzman, Nacho Coronel stood firmly with the Sinaloa cartel.
Today Coronel is engaged in a bloody war with the Beltran Leyva cartel over control of drug trafficking operations in the state of Jalisco, especially in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.
Rumors have persisted since May of Coronel's arrest by military forces in the exclusive area on the shores of Lake Chapala known as El Molino. A version of the story states that the abduction of the prominant attorney and former PAN presidential Diego Fernandez was in retalition for the arrest.
However, there is no direct evidence that the arrest of Coronel actually occurred.
Despite his affiliation with the Sinaloa cartel, the DEA and FBI claim that over the past decade Colonel has consolidated his power and now operates as a free agent with a certain degree of independence.
"He has increased his power from the 1990’s and is now the head of a powerful criminal cell in Mexico, working directly with Colombian sources that supply him with hundreds of tons of cocaine” according to a criminal indictment prepared by United States authorities.
Highly skilled in the drug trafficking business, "Nacho" Coronel expanded his range of activities in recent years: today, in addition to cocaine, he has established dozens of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories throughout the country, allowing him to control more 50% of the production of synthetic drugs in Mexico, according to the DEA.
According to the FBI, Colonel promotes his narcotics production and trafficking activities through bribery, intimidation and violence.
Although the Colonel has been in the drug business from a young age, it was not until December 2003 when the U.S. Court for the Western District of Texas for the first time indicted him for drug trafficking and conspiracy to possess and import precursor chemicals for the alleged purpose of producing synthetic drugs.
According to the FBI, Colonel has become the most efficient and successful Capo in the production and distribution of synthetic drugs.
The PGR states that within the Sinaloa cartel area of influence, "Nacho" Coronel controls much of the Mexican Pacific coast. His base of operations is the state of Jalisco, the previous home of famous drug trafficking bosses like Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.
He also has the support of police forces and elements of the army in Durango, Sonora, Michoacan, and Guerrero. As a result, Coronel has enjoyed official government protection for much of his career.
Through activities of his partners in money laundering Coronel has also defrauded the Mexican federal government of millions of dollars through the manipulation of federal agricultural subsidy and development programs.
The body of Arturo Beltran Leyva, killed by government forces in December 2009
Everything was going well for "Nacho" Coronel and the Sinaloa cartel, until early 2008 when the Beltran Leyva faction decided to cut ties with Coronel over discrepancies in a joint enterprise that coronel ended up controlling. Shortly thereafter the Beltran Leyvas also cut their ties fom the Sinaloa cartel.
This break brought to light the relationships that the organization had with the political power for years, particularly with senior commanders of SIEDO, Mexico’s the Deputy Attorney General’s Office for the Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime.
The PGR learned by the testimony of Fernando Rivera Hernandez, a retired Army captain and former agent of SIEDO and alleged protector of the Beltran Leyva brothers, that before his death Arturo Beltran "El Barbas", head of the Beltran Leyva clan ordered the execution of Nacho Coronel and the payment of whatever amount necessary to contacts within SIEDO for the capture of Chapo Guzman..
The order of Arturo Beltran Leyva was "pay whatever was necessary to our contacts to pull this slope with" Nacho "Coronel and help the Government to capture the" Chapo "Guzman," says the officer in the investigation cited.
Rivera Hernandez testified that "In February 2008, El 19, a hitman at the service of the Beltrán Leyva clan asked me and my group within SIEDO to search for "Nacho" Coronel, since this drug dealer and his men had betrayed Don Arturo Beltran and he therefore wanted revenge."
Rivera Hernandez also asserts that for this work Beltran Leyva would pay him $350,000. Although he adds: " We never took on that job”
Although Coronel was not bothered any authority during 2008 and 2009, other cartels have tried to assassinate him on several occasions.
Just in early April of 2010, for example, suspected gunmen allied with the Beltrán Leyva killed his son , Alejandro Coronel, age 16. The PGR said that the young son of Coronel was kidnapped shortly before his execution.
Assassins in the service of Colonel counterattacked. In Nayarit they killed 10 people and burned their bodies. Weeks later in Sonora they kidnapped Clara Elena Laborín Archuleta, the wife of Héctor Beltrán Leyva “el H”, the heir to the leadership of the Beltran Leyvas after the death of Arturo in December 2009..
Colonel spared her life and left a message in the place where she was freed, addressed to "H": "We are going to teach you to be men and respect the family, child murderer. Here is your wife, for which you refused to answer, we deliver her safe and sound so you can see and learn that we see the family is sacred."
Beginning last March, Colonel began to lose his many years of immunity with the capture of a chief lieutenant, José Antonio Escareño Aviña "El Pelon" who was captured by the Federal Police in Puerto Vallarta.
Diego Fernandez, kidnapped May 12, 2010.
The Mexican media lit up on May 20 when the story circulated that Nacho Coronel had been detained by SIEDO agents and marines in the state of Jalisco. Fernando Guzman Peláez, an official in the Jalisco state government, fueled the rumor by leaking that "Yes, he could have been arrested" but later recanted: "We can not confirm or rule out anything."
It was learned later that the Navy Department and the PGR had conducted a joint operation in the municipality of Juanacatlán and the Guadalajara metropolitan area to detain Colonel and his henchmen.
Almost simultaneously, on May 21 another scandal rocked the country: the kidnapping of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos. At first, the PGR said nothing, especially given the speculation that the Sinaloa cartel was behind the kidnapping of the former Pan Senator and presidenyial candidate in order to force the government to release Colonel.
Days later locked in a tangle of conflicting stories and rumors, the PGR said that Colonel was not detained, but that it carried out several operations to capture him.