Did Nacho Coronel really die or did the government fake his death to give the impression it's going after the Sinaloa cartel? Did Chapo Guzman give up Nacho Coronel to save his own skin? Did Nacho Coronel even exist?
These are some of the rumours swirling around Mexico and online since the killing of Nacho Coronel on July 29. Many people simply don't believe the government when it says it's killed a capo. I'm not sure why: there is plenty of evidence that the Calderon administration has arrested and killed top guys – why not Nacho Coronel too? Sure, his funeral was pretty low-key and kept under wraps (as would be expected; after all, even though he was a criminal, his family wasn't, and even criminals are entitled to a private funeral, even in Mexico) and his body was not displayed for all to see (fair enough really; even dead narcos are entitled to not have their bodies paraded in front of the media). So yes, I believe he is indeed dead, and that this is not some government plot to pretend they're going after Sinaloa.
Second, did Chapo give him up? According to Sinaloans in the know, Chapo, El Mayo and Nacho Coronel met just two weeks before his death. Chapo, it's said, told Nacho Coronel that he should be expanding his territory, or sphere of influence, into Michoacan and Colima (the former being La Familia turf, the latter being a relatively narco-free state thought to basically be under Chapo's sway). It's possible that Chapo was leading Nacho Coronel into a trap, but it's unlikely – business is business, there would have been easier ways to get him out of the way. In addition, Nacho Coronel is the uncle of Chapo's wife (at least reputedly) and a key player in Durango. Giving Nacho Coronel up and losing a big ally in Durango at a time when Los Zetas and La Linea are still fighting their way into Durango and Sinaloa would seem an absurd move for Chapo to make. So I doubt he made it.
What is quite possible is the rumour that the authorities betrayed an unspoken agreement with Nacho Coronel. They had to know he was regularly in Zapopan, and where exactly his homes were, just like they know where Chapo and El Mayo's homes are in Culiacan and other major cities. So, there must have been some sort of co-existence agreement between Nacho Coronel and the local authorities. And they may well have sold him out.
Again, I doubt Chapo had anything to do with it. If he did, that would be the second time in two years – he reputedly gave up Mochomo back in early 2008. I can't imagine Chapo would maintain his rep as a fearsome leader or savvy boss if he kept selling out his cronies – who would trust him, from the lower ranks to the higher-ups? And if Chapo kept turning people in to save his own skin, wouldn't it stand to reason that at some point, he'd be the only one left, and the authorities would turn on him too? Unless, of course, the whole plan is mapped out – which I doubt, considering the authorities have not proven capable of looking five inches in front of their eyes so far in the drug war.
Chapo's too smart – his longevity in the business has proved that – to end up alone and betrayed.
As for whether Nacho Coronel existed or not, there is more evidence that he was a real person than indicating otherwise. However, a lot of the history that's coming out about him has to be looked at with a degree of skepticism. El Blog Del Narco has some old photos of him supposedly in prison in 1993, but they look very photoshopped to me, at least at a glance. (BTW, contrary to some news reports following the AP story on Blogdelnarco, it is not a blog run by narcos. It's run by a student, as AP reports, and some alleged narcos have posted on it. It's a good site though, check it out.)