Here is an excerpt from Ken Ellingwood and Richard Marosi's article in the L.A. Times:
"In a significant blow against the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, Mexican troops on Thursday killed one of the group's top figures during an arrest raid in western Mexico... Ignacio Coronel Villarreal is described as one of the three most important bosses in the cartel, which is based in Sinaloa state and run by the country's most-wanted drug suspect, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. Coronel, known as "Nacho" and in his mid-50s, was highly sought by U.S. and Mexican authorities. Authorities said Coronel headed the group's operations in the western states of Colima, Nayarit and Jalisco, where troops tracked him down Thursday. U.S. officials have described him as a pioneer in making large quantities of methamphetamine to be smuggled into the United States. Army officials said Coronel was slain after opening fire on troops closing in on him in an upscale, tree-lined suburb of Guadalajara, long considered a haven for drug bosses. Coronel kept two residences that he used as safe houses and maintained a low profile, the army said... Though for years a close associate of Guzman, Coronel was considered by U.S. and Mexican authorities a potent trafficker in his own right, with direct access to cocaine supplies in Colombia." Link to Full Article
Analysis: This is a very significant piece of news coming out of Mexico, equivalent to the killing of Arturo Beltrán Leyva earlier this year, in my opinion. Just three things I want to comment on here.
First, the eternal question of organizational succession. Coronel was truly a top dog in the Sinaloa Federation, third in line after Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia. I don't know how much of a hands-on trafficker he was, or if he did a lot of delegating. His immediate subordinate and meth-maker extraordinaire is Salvador Antonio Damián López, so perhaps he'll get promoted to fill in for El Nacho. Guzmán also has Juan Jose "El Azúl" Esparragoza Moreno working for him at a level roughly equivalent to Coronel's, so he may see an increased role in the organization. Esparragoza, by the way, is said to have had a role in the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena in 1985.
Second, several drug war observers and Calderón critics have accused his administration of being soft on the Federation, and even being in direct and knowing cahoots with Guzmán and his folks. I'm curious what those critics have to say now, as killing Coronel isn't exactly the best way for Calderón or the Mexican army to cozy up to Guzmán. I've been on the fence about those allegations because in this war, anything is truly possible. However, I've tried to remain optimistic that the heavier casualties and arrests of members of other DTOs have merely been a strategic decision. Hopefully Coronel's demise has no ulterior motives behind it, other than a sincere desire to go after all the DTOs and their kingpins equally.
Third, and mostly as an aside, the US Consulate in Ciudad Juárez sent out a warden message announcing they would be closed today for a "security review." I don't know for sure if the closure is related at all to Coronel's death. One of my colleagues tells me that is part of it, as is a 15-day window for the next car bombing in Juárez. Coronel was killed a decent ways away from Juárez, and technically he lived and did most of his work in western Mexico. However, the Federation has been battling with the VCFO in Juárez for some time, so it would follow that the State Department would have some concerns over a possible flare-up in violence there.
So, once again, the only constant in Mexico these days is change. We'll see over the next few days how the Federation responds organizationally to Coronel's death, and what form retribution against the Mexican army and government in general will take.