Mexico City – Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzmán, an alleged drug trafficker wanted by the United States and one of the sons of former Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in a pre-dawn operation Thursday that set off gunfights and roadblocks across the western state. capital.
Defense Minister Luis Crescencio Sandoval said that members of the army and the National Guard arrested the son of “El Chapo”. Sandoval only knew him as Ovidio, in keeping with government policy.
Ovidio Guzmán, nicknamed “The Mouse,” wasn’t one of El Chapo’s most famous sons until his arrest was aborted three years ago. This attempt similarly sparked violence in Culiacán that eventually led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order the military to let him go.
Thursday’s arrest of high-profile figures comes just days before Lopez Obrador hosts US President Joe Biden for bilateral talks followed by a North American leaders’ summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking, along with immigration, is expected to be one of the main points of discussion.
“This is a huge blow to the Sinaloa cartel and a huge victory for the rule of law. It won’t, however, impede the flow of drugs into the United States, and hopefully Mexico will turn it over to the United States,” Mike Vigil, the former DEA director and chief of international operations, said Thursday.
Vigil said that Ovidio Guzmán was involved in all of the cartel’s activities, especially the production of fentanyl.
More than 107,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in the year ending January 2022, the CDC said in July, most of them from opioids including illegally manufactured fentanyl.
López Obrador’s security approach reversed years of what became known as the “kingpin” strategy of taking down cartel leaders, leading to the breakup of large cartels and bloody battles for dominance. Lopez Obrador put all his faith in the military, disbanding the corrupt federal police and creating a National Guard under military command.
Sandoval said the takeover was the result of six months of reconnaissance and surveillance in cartel territory, then swift action on Thursday. National Guard forces spotted the SUVs, some with homemade body armor, and immediately coordinated with the military when they set up a perimeter around the suspicious vehicles and forced the occupants outside to be searched.
Security forces then came under fire, Sandoval said, but managed to take control of the situation and identify Guzmán among those present with firearms.
Cartel members set up 19 roadblocks including the Culiacán airport and outside the local army base, as well as all access points to the city of Culiacán, Sandoval said, but the Air Force was able to fly Guzmán to Mexico City despite their efforts, and he was taken away. To the Special Prosecutor’s Offices for Organized Crime.
Sandoval said that Guzmán was the leader of a Sinaloa faction he called “Los Menores” or “The Little Ones,” also known as “Los Chapetos” to the sons of El Chapo.
Other “little Chapos” included two of his brothers – Ivan Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán – who were believed to have been running the cartel’s operations along with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Vigil said that the Chapitos had more control over the cartel because Zambada was in poor health and isolated in the mountains. “The Chapettos know that if the Mayos die, they (the cartel) will fall apart if they don’t have control.”
“It would be very important for the United States to request Ovidiu’s extradition quickly and for Mexico to do so,” Vigil said.
US Homeland Security Investigations posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Guzmán early last year.
The alleged cartel members responded to Thursday’s operation by kidnapping Culiacán residents and setting vehicles on fire in the organization’s stronghold. Local and state authorities have warned everyone to stay indoors.
Sporadic gunfire continued into Thursday afternoon in Culiacán as Mexican security forces continued to engage cartel gunmen and few people ventured outside. Airports there and in many other cities of Sinaloa remained closed.
“I’m inside a hotel… three hours ago they took my car,” local reporter Marcos Vizcarra said on Twitter. He explained that gunmen entered the hotel where he had taken refuge, “and threaten the guests to give them the keys to their car.”
Later, Vizcarra reports that they took his phone, but he returns home safely.
Aeromexico said in a statement that one of its planes was hit by a bullet Thursday morning as it prepared to take off. A passenger video posted online showed people cowering on the floor of the plane. The company said the passengers and crew were safe.
Mexico’s civil aviation agency later said in a statement that an Air Force plane in Culiacán was also hit by gunfire. In addition to Culiacán airport, the agency said airports in Los Mochis and Mazatlan have been ordered to close and all flights canceled for security reasons.
Such attempts to create chaos often come in response to the arrests of important cartel figures in Mexico. One of the most notorious came when Ovidio Guzmán was cornered by federal security forces in October 2019, only to be allowed to escape after gunmen fired into the city with high-powered weapons.
That attempt came just months after his father, Joaquín “El Chapo” or “Shorty” Guzmán, was sentenced to life in prison in a US prison.
López Obrador said at the time that he made the decision to avoid loss of life, even though the United States was seeking the extradition of Ovidio Guzmán on drug trafficking charges. A federal indictment in 2018 in Washington, D.C. charged him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.
López Obrador took office and sharply criticized the losses of his predecessors’ drug war. He embraced the phrase “arms, not bullets” to describe his approach to chronic violence in Mexico, which would focus on social programs aimed at weakening the power of organized crime.
But four years into his six-year term, the death toll is still high.
In July, Mexico arrested Rafael Caro Quintero, once a drug lord and the man allegedly responsible for the death of a DEA agent more than three decades ago, just days after López Obrador met with Biden at the House. the White.
At the time, the takeover was seen as a signal that Mexico might be willing to go after high-profile cartel bosses again, something López Obrador was loath to do.
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