Unrest lurks over Mexico following the arrest of drug lord El Chapo's son

Ovidio Guzmán Lopez was originally arrested in 2019 but released a short time later to prevent violence on the streets of Culiacan.(Photo: AP/CEPROPIE)

Ovidio Guzmán, the son of incarcerated drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, has been caught, sparking a violent retaliation by gang gunmen who shut down the airport in the city of Culiacan and warned locals to stay indoors.

Minister of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval announced at a press conference that security agents had apprehended the 32-year-old Sinaloa Cartel leader.

The arrest comes three years after a failed attempt to capture him resulted in the government's humiliation when it was forced to release him to stem the bloodshed that erupted on the streets of Culiacan at the hands of Sinaloa Cartel gunmen.

Ovidio Guzmán is currently being held in Mexico City, according to Mr. Sandoval.

Social media videos, which Reuters could not verify immediately, looked to show intense combat overnight in Culiacan, the capital city of the northern state of Sinaloa, with helicopter gunfire lighting up the sky.

The city's airport was the target of violence, with Aeromexico reporting that one of its planes was struck by gunfire before a journey to Mexico City.

Aeromexico stated that no one was injured, and the aircraft, considered an Embraer 190, returned to the gate.

The federal aviation agency of Mexico reported that a Mexican air force plane had also been targeted, and the airports in Culiacan, Mazatlan, and Los Mochis in Sinaloa would remain closed until security could be guaranteed.

Ovidio Guzmán, who has become a significant player in the cartel since his father's arrest, was briefly jailed in 2019 but swiftly freed to prevent violent retaliation from his group in Culiacan.

The episode was an embarrassing setback for President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's administration.

Next week, US Vice President Joe Biden will attend a North American leaders summit in Mexico City, where security matters will be on the agenda. His most recent capture comes just before that summit, focusing on security issues.

One of the Mexican officials stated that the arrest of Ovidio Guzman would likely be a welcome boost to US-Mexico security cooperation in advance of Mr. Biden's arrival.

The United States had offered a $US5 million ($7.4 million) reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Ovidio Guzmán.

It is now unclear if Ovidio Guzmán will be extradited to the United States like his father, who is currently serving a life sentence in Colorado's ADX Florence, the most guarded federal supermax prison in the United States.

The spike in overdose deaths in the United States, fueled by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, has raised pressure on Mexico to battle the organizations, such as the Sinaloa Cartel, responsible for the drug's production and distribution.

The cartel is one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world.

"This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and a major victory for the rule of law," said Mike Vigil, the DEA's former chief of international operations.

Mr. Vigil stated that Ovidio Guzmán was involved in all cartel activities, particularly fentanyl manufacture.

For Tomas Guevara, a security expert at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, Ovidio Guzmán's arrest helps save face for Mexican law enforcement following the humiliation of having to let El Chapo's son walk in 2019.

Mr. Guevara noted that it might also signal a change in the government's strategy in response to accusations from numerous security professionals that Mr. Lopez Obrador was soft on the cartels, a charge he denies.

The president claims that his predecessors' confrontational strategies were ineffective and led to more bloodshed and that he will instead follow a campaign of "hugs, not bullets"

Culiacan residents urged to stay indoors

Thursday morning, security authorities attempted to contain a violent reaction to the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán's colleagues in the Culiacan region.

As heavily armed law officers patrolled in trucks, burned vehicles were littered on the streets.

"We continue to work on controlling the situation," said Cristobal Castaneda, Sinaloa's public security chief.

Due to the violence, the local authorities asked residents to remain home and announced that schools and administrative offices were closed.

Additionally, street blockades were created.

"We ask the citizens of Culiacan not to leave home due to the blockades that have occurred in different parts of the city," tweeted the mayor of Culiacan, Juan de Dios Gamez.

In 2019, 65-year-old Joaquin Guzmán was found guilty in New York of trafficking billions of dollars worth of cocaine into the United States and conspiring to murder opponents.

Recent pressure from the Biden administration to target the Sinaloa Cartel, according to Eduardo Guerrero, director of Lantia Consulting, which analyzes Mexican organized crime, prompted Mexico to pursue Ovidio Guzmán likely.

However, he cautioned that while the capture of Ovidio was likely to harm that cartel, it could aid their most infamous competitor, the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

Mr. Guerrero stated that the government must keep in mind that the weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel could lead to an even more significant expansion and presence of the Jalisco Cartel.

Publish : 2023-01-06 08:12:00

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