Following the seizure of Ovidio Guzmán, one of the most sought cartel commanders in the world and the son of drug lord Joaqun “El Chapo” Guzmán, by federal agents on Thursday, armed men stormed an airport in northern Mexico, kidnapped hostages, and set vehicles on fire.
After an early-morning battle in a village to the north of Culiacán, the Sinaloa cartel’s stronghold, the 33-year-old drug lord was captured. According to Mexican Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval González, the air force was able to fly the younger Guzmán to Mexico City despite the cartel launching strikes across the state.
As cartel members set up roadblocks in a number of cities, injuring at least 25 security personnel and murdering one, authorities canceled flights, shut down schools, and told locals to stay put. According to Sandoval, cartel militants in Culiacan attacked an air force base and a commercial airport in addition to blocking all six city exits. Gunfire reportedly hit at least one commercial jet and an air force plane.
When federal agents last attempted to apprehend Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán in 2019, the cartel response resembled a brutal siege.
Guzmán, who has assisted in leading the Sinaloa cartel since his father was given a life sentence in prison in the United States, was subdued by members of Mexico’s recently established national guard during a raid on an opulent Culiacan property in October of that year.
Intense footage shows the moment the Mexican military comes under heavy fire from cartel gunmen. This is what the military has to deal with across #Mexico.#OvidioGuzman #Sinaloa #Culiacan #Juarez pic.twitter.com/dQxRAtLsM0
— Donkey Junk (@DonkeyJunkMedia) January 5, 2023
Agents were seeking to arrest him, but hundreds of Sinaloa fighters attacked the city, laying siege to a housing complex for military families, capturing hostages, and blocking intersections with burning vehicles. Eight persons passed away.
In order to prevent further bloodshed, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ultimately decided to order Guzmán’s release. At the time, he declared, “You can’t value the life of a delinquent over the lives of the people.
The botched operation infuriated many Mexicans and U.S. law enforcement officials, who said that it embarrassed federal agents and created a dangerous precedent.
Carlos A. Pérez Ricart, a security analyst at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics in Mexico City, described it as “a moral setback for the entire Mexican state.”
Since then, Ovidio Guzmán’s image has hung over every Mexican’s head, according to Pérez Ricart. In addition to being significant symbolically, finally catching him today is also significant practically.
Days ahead of Vice President Biden’s planned trip to Mexico, the first by an American president since 2014, Guzmán was recaptured.
Guzman’s arrest was widely believed to have been timed in part to appease the Americans, who have complained about the effectiveness of the Mexican president’s “hugs not bullets” crime-fighting strategy and his protection of a former defense minister accused of cooperating with organized crime and charged by U.S. prosecutors.
After being detained at the Los Angeles International Airport in 2020 on suspicion of drug trafficking, retired general Salvador Cienfuegos, who held the position of defense minister from 2012 to 2018, was released after López Obrador threatened to stop future security cooperation with the United States unless Cienfuegos was freed.
Later, the president declared that Cienfuegos wouldn’t be prosecuted in Mexico and claimed that the US Drug Enforcement Administration had made up the charges against him.
U.S. law enforcement authorities were incensed by the episode as well as López Obrador’s decision to cancel the Mérida Initiative, a multilateral security agreement.
Despite these conflicts, López Obrador’s administration has consistently met a top American priority: the capture of notorious drug lords.
In July 2021, just a few days after López Obrador and Biden had a meeting at the White House, Mexican troops arrested Rafael Caro Quintero, a cartel member said to be responsible for the 1985 murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.
The National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Jorge Israel, a professor of human rights, claimed on Twitter that López Obrador was “cleaning house before Biden arrives.”
Vicente Fox, a former president and fierce opponent of López Obrador, referred to Ovidio’s abduction as a “present” for Biden.
The United States requested Guzmán’s extradition some years ago, but it’s probable that Guzmán will face drug trafficking charges in Mexico, according to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Thursday.
One of the ten offspring of “El Chapo,” the notorious drug lord who used cutting-edge smuggling methods to make the Sinaloa drug cartel one of the most potent criminal enterprises in history, is Ovidio Guzmán.
El Chapo, who made two infamous jail escapes from Mexico, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and found guilty of 10 crimes, including drug trafficking and money laundering.
Since then, Ovidio Guzmán and several of his brothers, known as the “Chapitos,” have fought Ismael Zambada Garca, also known as “El Mayo,” one of the group’s founding members, for leadership of the organization.
They have also had to contend with intrusions from competing cartels, such as the Jalisco New Generation cartel.
The government’s success in apprehending Guzmán this time, according to several security experts, demonstrated how much the Sinaloa cartel has transformed.
Pérez Ricart stated, “The context is extremely different now. “Internal tensions have undermined Sinaloa.”
Governor Rubén Rocha Moya of Sinaloa declared that authorities had taken back control of the state before the end of the day on Thursday. The wreckage of burned-out vehicles started to be removed, as local law enforcement worked to prevent store raids by looters.
Marcos Vizcarra, a local journalist, endured many terrifying hours as a cartel hostage.
Early on Thursday, when armed robbers took Vizcarra’s car, he was covering the violence for a news outlet. He and other bystanders eventually made it to a hotel in Culiacan, where the shooters, according to him, were “grabbing more keys to fire more automobiles.”
Vizcarra was given permission to depart and return to his secure residence by early afternoon when the gang boss had already arrived in Mexico City.
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