By Ken Ellingwood,
Los Angeles Times
Until he raised his pistol for the last time, Ignacio Coronel Villarreal was known for keeping his head low and footprints light.
In a world populated by many larger-than-life drug bosses, the slightly built Coronel ruled with a quiet ruthlessness. He was seldom photographed and moved so carefully in the suburb of mansions where he lived in western Mexico that just one bodyguard was with him when the dragnet closed.
Even his age and birthplace are a source of mystery.
This much is known: By the time Mexican troops killed Coronel on Thursday outside the city of Guadalajara, he had reached the top rungs of drug trafficking, lording over a broad stretch of the Pacific coast as part of a years-long alliance with the country's most-wanted crime boss, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman.
Coronel's share of the Mexican methamphetamine market was considered significant enough that analysts speculated his death might actually disrupt supplies of the synthetic drug, if only briefly.
Mexican and U.S. officials Friday hailed the killing as a major strike against Guzman's Sinaloa-based cartel, the most powerful in Mexico, and a success in their governments' shared battle against drug traffickers. President Felipe Calderon launched his war against drug cartels nearly four years ago.
In Washington, the Drug Enforcement Administration called Coronel's death "a crippling blow" to the Sinaloa group's operations.
"Coronel was a major poly-drug trafficker involved in transporting multi-ton quantities of cocaine and producing tons of methamphetamine," the agency said in a statement.
Others, though, said the Sinaloa-based group is probably well positioned to survive such a blow because its segmented leadership structure is based on control of geographical zones rather than hierarchy.
Coronel, known as "Nacho," controlled a broad coastal swath that includes the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Colima and part of Michoacan, officials said. He was said to have established direct access to cocaine suppliers in Colombia and a ready supply from Asia of chemical ingredients for making methamphetamine.
"This is a harsh blow … but it doesn't spell a death knell," said George W. Grayson, an expert on Mexico's drug trade at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
Ignacio Coronel Villarreal
Ignacio Coronel Villarreal, a.k.a. Nacho Coronel (February 1, 1954 – July 29, 2010) was a Mexican drug lord who was one of the three leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Mexico's most-wanted drug lord.
Ignacio Coronel was responsible for moving multi-ton quantities of cocaine via fishing vessels from Colombia to Mexico and on to the U.S. states of Texas and Arizona during the early 2000s. The scope of his influence and operations penetrated throughout the United States, Mexico, and several other European, Central American, and South American countries. In Mexico, he was known as the "King of Crystal" for his domination of crystal methamphetamine production and trafficking.
Both the governments of the United States and Mexico had an outstanding arrest warrant for Coronel; in addition, the United States Department of State was offering a reward of up to $5 million USD for information leading to his capture.
Coronel was killed on July 29, 2010, in Zapopan, Jalisco, during a shootout with the Mexican Army. During the raid, Coronel killed a soldier and wounded another. A statement from the federal Attorney General's Office says soldiers found jewelry, luxury watches, guns, two hand grenades and three vehicles and USD$7 million in cash in the house where Coronel was killed.
More on "El Nacho" here.