The Fight For Guadalajara
For The New Yorker, William Finegan explores the escalating drug war in Guadalajara, Mexico, a city that had until recently had not seen the worst of the violence.
Its Guadalajara chieftain, Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel Villarreal, became known as the King of Crystal. He lived in the city’s wealthiest neighborhood but ran his operations without flamboyance. The profits were apparently fabulous. Then, in July, 2010, Coronel was killed in an Army raid on his home. Speculation was rife. Armchair warriors wondered if El Chapo had set up his old friend Nacho, out of concern that his Jalisco kingdom was becoming too independently powerful. In any event, everyone said that taking Coronel alive was out of the question. The “gentleman narco,” as I heard him called in Guadalajara, knew who in the Army was on whose payroll. That was why the Army sent a hundred soldiers to attack the house where he had lived, more or less openly, for many years.
“That was when things changed in Jalisco,” a bookstore clerk on Avenida Chapultepec told me. “That was the end of the peace.” The Zetas, who reportedly know nothing about cooking meth but are old hands at the hostile takeover of going concerns, started making more aggressive alliances with disaffected local gangsters.
“Heating up the plaza” is the term of art for what’s happening in Guadalajara, mainly in the poor barrios and in the badlands on the outskirts, the places absorbing the city’s wild recent growth. Tlajomulco de Zuñiga, a big, shapeless municipio (the rough equivalent of a county) on the city’s southern edge, has seen its population quadruple in a decade, to almost half a million. The PRI’s candidate for governor recently described the area as “a dumping ground for corpses.” Bad guys dropped their victims in local ditches. The Army conducted raids on local meth labs. In February, the Army announced that it had seized, in a “historic” bust, in Tlajomulco, fifteen tons of methamphetamine. The street value of that much meth was, by the Army’s figuring, some four billion dollars. If true, that would indeed make it the largest meth bust in history. But was it true?