How did a Mexican drug trafficker manage to use a CIA rendition aircraft to smuggle drugs into the U.S.? The death of drug cartel leader, Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel reveals surprising (or not so surprising) connections.
Earlier this week, Sinaloa drug cartel leader Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel was killed in a raid conducted by the Mexican military. According to several media and official Mexican government reports, Coronel had a long criminal history and played significant roles mostly within the Sinaloa cartel. He was currently a member of the ‘inner circle’ working for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman –the drug lord listed by Forbes as one of the richest men in the world.
Yesterday, thanks to the arduous work of the Mexican newspaper Por Esto!, it was discovered that Nacho Coronel was literally running “El Chapo” Guzman’s cocaine operations in the Yucatan Peninsula since 2004, when evidently, he became the visible head of the Sinaloa Cartel which operated out of the cities of Merida, Cancun, and Cozumel. This was known as “the Yucatan Peninsula Route.”
Coronel’s Yucatan operations included the transportation of narcotics via air, mainly cocaine from Colombia to be later smuggled into the United States. During that time, Nacho Coronel had the protection and collaboration of corrupt elements from local, state and federal police, as well as from Mexican military. One particular example of the involvement of Mexican military in his operations included the arrest of 11 Mexican Navy officials who were caught smuggling cocaine from Colombia into Yucatan on May 12 of 2006. Coronel had apparently established connections with the Colombian drug cartel known as “Valle del Norte” (North Valley). Further, Nacho Coronel had allegedly established connections with Cuban intelligence agents operating in Cancun, according to Mexican columnist Raymundo Riva Palacio.
On September of 2007, there was a plane crash in Yucatan. When authorities arrived at the crash site, they discovered well over 3 tons of cocaine onboard the Gulfstream II aircraft. The narcotics reportedly belonged to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, under the command of “El Chapo” Guzman and the local control of Nacho Coronel. However, after further investigations into the origins of the aircraft’s markings and registration number (N987SA), it was discovered that it was used for CIA rendition flights. Later that month, another drug bust took place involving a DC9 aircraft transporting cocaine, registered to an American business (although the American owner was never arrested, and the identity was not publicly revealed).
Confirmed by several sources
The Mexican newspaper El Universal obtained several records pertaining to the ownership and recent flight information for the Gulfstream II aircraft. The plane had recently been purchased by a company registered as “Donna Blue Aircraft Inc.” Some news media outlets and investigators like Daniel Hopsicker discovered that the company known as “Donna Blue Aircraft Inc.” or “DBA” did not exist. He published detailed information about DBA’s phony address and empty offices on his website. According to flight records, the Gulfstream II aircraft had been used by the CIA in rendition flights from Europe to the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo, Cuba.
The flight records obtained from the FAA and the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation or ‘Eurocontrol,’ included a time period from November 17, 2001 through September 18, 2007. A detailed list of some of the flights, including locations, dates, arrivals and departures was published by El Universal.