Mexico City: One of the top three leaders of Mexico`s most powerful drug cartel died in a gunfight with soldiers on Thursday, ending the long run of a mysterious capo considered a founder of the country`s massive methamphetamine trade.
The death of Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel near the city of Guadalajara is the biggest strike yet against the Sinaloa cartel led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman — Mexico`s top drug lord — since President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against drug traffickers in late 2006.
According to the FBI, which offered a USD 5 million reward for the 56-year-old Coronel, he was believed to be "the forerunner in producing massive amounts of methamphetamine in clandestine laboratories in Mexico, then smuggling it into the US”.
Gen Edgar Luis Villegas said an Army raid was closing in one of Coronel`s safehouses in an upscale suburb of the western city of Guadalajara, when the drug lord opened fire on soldiers.
"Nacho Coronel tried to escape, and fired on military personnel, killing one soldier and wounding another," Villegas said at a news conference in Mexico City. "Responding to the attack, this `capo` died."
Villegas said the raid "significantly affects the operational capacity and drug distribution of the organisation run by Guzman”.
Authorities say Guzman, No 2 Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada and Coronel formed the top three capos in the Sinaloa cartel. Coronel allegedly controlled trafficking routes through the states of Jalisco, Colima and parts of Michoacan — known as the "Pacific route" for cocaine smuggling.
Coronel`s downfall came amid persistent allegations that Calderon`s administration appeared to be favouring the Sinaloa cartel, or not hitting it as hard as other drug gangs.