Juan José Esparragoza Monzón, aka “El Negro,” escaped from a prison in Culiacán in a mid-day jailbreak. He was on the Justice Ministry’s list of 122 top targets; his capture on January 19 was announced in a press conference by Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales. El Negro was being held pending extradition to the U.S. He is believed to be one of the top financial operators of the Sinaloa Cartel. His father “El Azul,” is one of the cartel’s top leaders–perhaps the top leader after El Chapo’s recapture last year. “El Negro” is also married to the youngest daughter of the former head of the Beltran Leyva cartel, who was killed in a high profile military operation in 2009. Source: López-Doriga.
In a major breakthrough, the Army announced that Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, one of the three top leaders of the Sinaloa cartel, was killed during an operation by Army special forces in the exclusive San Javier district of Guadalajara. A force of around 150 soldiers surrounded the two houses where Coronel was believed to be with his bodyguards. Power, telephone, and cellphone service was cut off in the neighborhood to aid the operation. The Army said the operation began in May, when they began tracking Coronel’s whereabouts. He was reportedly shot after he fired on the soldiers, killing one and wounding another. The Army also arrested Irán Francisco Quiñones, believed to be Coronel’s principal deputy, during the operation. The Mexican government had offered a Ps. 30 million reward and the U.S. government another US$5 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction.(Universal 7/29, Excelsior 7/29, Reforma 7/29)
As summarized by columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio,
[Coronel’s] death is the most important blow by the government of Felipe Calderón in its 44-month long war against narco-trafficking. … It is a blow to the heart of the Sinaloa cartel, to whose ruling triumvirate he belonged. He was, among the cartel’s leaders, … the most educated (with a college engineering degree) and kept a low profile, even though his silent violence was devastating. He was responsible for the entire cocaine and methamphetamine operation along the southern Pacific coast. … His unexpected death shakes up the leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, and profoundly damages the drug transit route that goes through Gómez Palacio and Torreón and ends in Ciudad Juárez. The loss is enormous for the cartel, but should give enormous satisfaction to the government of Mexico and, above all, to the government of the United States, which without having to dirty its hands has eliminated the principal exporter of methamphetemines to that country.(Eje Central 7/30)
The Army seized the largest drug manufacturing facility ever discovered in Mexico: 22 buildings including labs, dormitories, warehouses, a gymnasium, and its own power plants and water system, covering 240 hectares in the “Golden Triangle” area of the Sierra Madre. The plant manufactured crystal meth and warehoused marijuana. The military seized 164 55-gallon drums with chemical precursors along with 20kg of pure crystal meth and 10 tons of marijuana. Reportedly the plant belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, but no persons were captured during the operation. (Excelsior 8/8, Reforma 8/7, Proceso 8/7)
The primary government program for supporting poor farmers, Procampo, was shown to be paying support funds to many of the top drug traffickers and their families, as well many prominent political families, according to an investigation carried out by CIDE and Fundar and reported by El Universal. Among the drug traffickers (and their families) who have gotten Procampo financial support: ‘El Mayo’ Zambada (Sinaloa cartel), ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán (Sinaloa cartel), Amado and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (Juárez cartel), and Juan Garcia Abrego (Gulf Cartel). Procampo was created 15 years ago to assist small farmers adjust to the opening of agricultural trade as part of NAFTA. The investigation estimates that the top 20% of recipients have gotten 80% of the Ps. 171 billion in grants over the life of the program, while the average small farmer receives only Ps.700 per year. In response, Secretary of Agriculture Alberto Cárdenas promised an immediate scrubbing of the list of beneficiaries, but said it was the responsibility of the Justice Ministry to weed out drug traffickers. (Universal 7/27, 7/29, Proceso 7/31)