Son of ‘El Chapo’ captured a 2nd time after shootout with Mexican police – National

Son of ‘El Chapo’ captured a 2nd time after shootout with Mexican police – National

Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzmán, a suspected drug dealer wanted by the United States, and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, in an operation before dawn Thursday that led to shootings and roadblocks in the western states led capital.

Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said members of the army and national guard had captured a son of “El Chapo”. Sandoval only identified him as Ovidio, in accordance with government policy.

Ovidio Guzman, nicknamed “the Mouse,” was not one of El Chapo’s better-known sons until an aborted operation in which he was captured three years ago. This attempt similarly sparked violence in Culiacan, which eventually prompted President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to order the military to let him go.

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Thursday’s high-profile capture comes just days before Lopez Obrador will host US President Joe Biden for bilateral talks, followed by their summit of North American leaders with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking is expected to be a major topic of conversation along with immigration.

“This is a major blow to the Sinaloa cartel and a major victory for the rule of law. However, it will not impede the flow of drugs into the United States. Hopefully Mexico will extradite him to the US,” Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former head of international operations, said Thursday.

Vigil said that Ovidio Guzman was involved in all of the cartel’s activities, most notably the production of fentanyl. A 2018 federal indictment in Washington, DC charged the younger Guzman with conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States.

The CDC said last July that more than 107,000 Americans died from drug overdoses over the year to January 2022, most of them related to opioids, including illegally manufactured fentanyl.

Lopez Obrador’s security approach reversed years of the so-called kingpin strategy of taking down cartel leaders, which led to the fragmentation of large cartels and bloody struggles for supremacy. Lopez Obrador put all his faith in the military, disbanding the corrupt federal police force and placing the National Guard under military command.

The capture was the result of six months of reconnaissance and surveillance on cartel territory and then quick action on Thursday, Sandoval said. National Guard troops spotted SUVs, some with home-made armor, and immediately coordinated with the army as they established a perimeter around the suspect vehicles and forced the occupants to be searched.

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Security forces then came under fire but were able to bring the situation under control and identify Guzman among those present and in possession of firearms, Sandoval said.

Cartel members set up 19 roadblocks, including at Culiacan’s airport and outside the local army base, as well as all entry points into the city of Culiacan, Sandoval said, but the Air Force was able to fly Guzman into Mexico City despite their best efforts brought by the Attorney General.

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Sandoval said Guzman was a leader of a Sinaloa faction he called “los menores” or “the juniors,” also known as “los Chapitos” for El Chapo’s sons.

Other “little chapos” include two of his brothers – Ivan Archivaldo Guzman and Jesus Alfredo Guzman – who are believed to have run cartel deals alongside Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

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The Chapitos tightened their grip on the cartel because Zambada was in poor health and isolated in the mountains, Vigil said. “The Chapitos know that if el Mayo dies, (the cartel) will fall apart if they don’t have control.”

“It will be very important that the United States quickly seek the extradition of Ovidio and that Mexico do so,” Vigil said.

US Homeland Security Investigations earlier last year offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzman’s arrest and/or conviction.

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Alleged cartel members responded to Thursday’s operation by kidnapping residents of Culiacan and setting fire to vehicles in the cartel stronghold. Local and state authorities warned everyone to stay indoors.

In Culiacan, intermittent gunfire continued into Thursday afternoon as Mexican security forces continued to clash with cartel gunmen and few people ventured outside. The airports there and in several other cities in Sinaloa remained closed.

Aeromexico airline said in a statement that one of its jets was hit by a bullet Thursday morning as it prepared to take off. Passenger video posted online showed people crouched on the floor of the plane. The company said passengers and crew are safe.

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Later, Mexico’s civil aviation authority said in a statement that an air force plane in Culiacan was also hit by gunfire. In addition to Culiacan Airport, airports in Los Mochis and Mazatlan have also been closed for security reasons, and all flights have been canceled, according to the agency.

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David Tellez was on board this flight with his wife and children preparing to return to Mexico City after visiting his in-laws.

Their plane had been waiting for its chance to take off when two large military planes with crew and three or four military helicopters landed. Marines and soldiers deployed at the edge of the runway.

As the scheduled flight finally prepared to accelerate, Tellez heard gunshots in the distance. Within 15 seconds, the sounds suddenly intensified. “We heard shots and threw ourselves on the ground,” he said.

He didn’t know the plane had been hit until a flight attendant told them. The plane quickly returned to the terminal and they were herded into a room. As of late Thursday afternoon, they were still at the airport unsure of when they could return to Mexico City.

Elsewhere in Culiacan, local reporter Marcos Vizcarra had taken refuge in a hotel after gunmen stole his car.

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He then explained via Twitter that armed men had broken into the hotel where he had taken shelter and “threatened guests to give them their car keys”.

Later, Vizcarra reported that they stole his phone but he made it home safely.

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Such attempts to wreak havoc often come in response to the arrests of key cartel figures in Mexico. One of the most notorious was when federal security forces cornered Ovidio Guzman in October 2019, only to let him escape after gunmen fired at the city with high-powered weapons.

Lopez Obrador said at the time he made the decision to avoid the loss of life.

Lopez Obrador came into office highly critical of the drug war toll of his predecessors. He adopted the phrase “hugs, not bullets” to describe his approach to Mexico’s chronic violence, which would focus on social programs aimed at weakening organized crime’s appeal.

But four years into his six-year tenure, the death toll remains high.

In July, Mexico arrested Rafael Caro Quintero, once one of the godfathers of the drug trade and the man allegedly responsible for the murder of a DEA agent more than three decades ago, just days after Lopez Obrador met with Biden at the White House would have.

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At the time, the capture was taken as a signal that Mexico might be ready to go after high-profile cartel bosses again, something Lopez Obrador had loathed.

Associated Press writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report.

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