Violence Hits Cartel Stronghold As Mexico Nabs Son Of ‘El Chapo’ Before Biden Visit

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The solar wasn’t but up in Culiacan when David Téllez and his household started making their option to the town’s airport for a return flight to Mexico after their trip. However not lengthy after they set out they encountered the primary crude roadblock, an deserted car obstructing their manner.

Téllez turned to social media to search out out what was happening and noticed that Sinaloa’s state capital, a stronghold of the cartel by the identical title, was full of roadblocks and gunfire.

It could be hours earlier than Mexico’s protection secretary would affirm that the army had captured Ovidio Guzmán, a son of the infamous former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, on Thursday in a pre-dawn operation north of the town.

Similar to that, Culiacan was thrust right into a day of terror not like any its residents had skilled since October 2019 — the final time authorities tried to seize the younger Guzmán.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has railed towards his predecessors’ aggressive efforts to seize drug lords, however his administration bagged the high-profile cartel determine simply days earlier than internet hosting U.S. President Joe Biden, and a minimum of within the brief time period locals had been paying the worth.

Culiacan residents posted video on social media displaying convoys of gunmen in pickup vehicles and SUVs rolling down boulevards within the metropolis. At the least one convoy included a flatbed truck with a mounted gun within the again, the identical sort of car that brought about chaos and mayhem within the 2019 unrest.

Safety personnel guard the prosecutor’s constructing the place Ovidio Guzmán, one of many sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, is in custody in Mexico Metropolis, on Jan. 5, 2023.

All entrances to the town had been blocked and comparable acts had been taking part in out in different elements of Sinaloa.

Rev. Esteban Robles, spokesman for the Roman Catholic diocese in Culiacan, stated that “there is an atmosphere of uncertainty, tension,” and that those that may had been staying inside their houses.

“A lot of the streets are still blocked by the cars that were burned,” Robles stated.

The Culiacan municipal authorities warned: “Don’t leave home! The safety of Culiacan’s citizens is the most important.” Faculties, native authorities and lots of non-public companies closed.

Oscar Loza, a human rights activist in Culiacan, described the scenario as tense, with some looting at shops. On the south aspect of the town, the place Loza lives, individuals reported convoys of gunmen transferring towards a army base, however Loza stated streets round his home had been eerily quiet. “You don’t hear any traffic,” he stated.

Téllez pressed on attempting to get his household again to Mexico Metropolis, circumventing a number of extra deserted autos blocking roads and ultimately making it to the airport.

There the household hurriedly checked in for his or her flight earlier than workers of an airport restaurant urged them to shelter in a rest room. Gunmen had been arriving on the airport to forestall authorities from flying Guzmán out.

Juan Carlos Ayala, a Culiacan resident and Sinaloa College professor who research the sociology of drug trafficking, stated Ovidio Guzmán was an apparent goal a minimum of since 2019.

This Oct. 17, 2019, frame grab from video provided by the Mexican government shows Ovidio Guzman Lopez at the moment of his detention, in Culiacan, Mexico. Mexican security forces were forced to release the son of Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman that day after his gunmen shot up the western city of Culiacan.
This Oct. 17, 2019, body seize from video offered by the Mexican authorities reveals Ovidio Guzman Lopez in the intervening time of his detention, in Culiacan, Mexico. Mexican safety forces had been pressured to launch the son of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman that day after his gunmen shot up the western metropolis of Culiacan.

“Ovidio’s fate had been decided. Moreover, he was identified as the biggest trafficker of fentanyl and the most visible Chapos leader.” Asked how locals had been reacting to the arrest, Ayala stated “People have differing views, but I think the majority are with them” — the Sinaloa cartel.

That could be due to the cash the cartel brings to the area, but in addition as a result of locals know that even after federal troops withdraw, the cartel will nonetheless be there. As unhealthy as it’s, the cartel has ensured relative stability, if not peace.

Guzmán was indicted by america on drug trafficking expenses in 2018. In accordance with each governments, he had assumed a rising function amongst his brothers in carrying on their father’s enterprise, together with long- time cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Overseas Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard confirmed that the federal government had acquired a request in 2019 from america for Guzmán’s arrest for functions of extradition. He stated that request must be up to date and processed, however he added that first an open case in Mexico awaits Guzmán.

Ismael Bojorquez, director of the native information outlet Riodoce, which makes a speciality of protection of the world’s drug trafficking, stated the violent response needed to do with the president’s much less aggressive stance towards organized crime.

“They (cartels) have taken advantage of these four years to organize themselves, arm themselves, strengthen their structures, their finances,” he stated. “I believe there are more weapons than three years ago. All of organized crime’s armies have strengthened, not just the Chapitos, and this is the price that society is paying for this strategy of the federal government.”

The police arrives on the scene after a store was looted in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, on Jan. 5, 2023.
The police arrives on the scene after a retailer was looted in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, on Jan. 5, 2023.

At Culiacan’s airport, a Mexican army flight was capable of spirit Guzmán away to Mexico Metropolis. Téllez’s industrial flight waited for its likelihood to take off as two giant army planes landed with troops as did three or 4 army helicopters, and marines and troopers started deploying alongside the perimeter of the runway.

When the airline flight was lastly making ready to speed up, Téllez heard gunshots within the distance. Inside 15 seconds the sound was all of a sudden extra intense and far nearer, and passengers threw themselves to the ground, he stated.

Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval announces the arrest of Ovidio during a press conference in Mexico City, onJan. 5, 2023.
Mexican Protection Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval pronounces the arrest of Ovidio throughout a press convention in Mexico Metropolis, onJan. 5, 2023.

He didn’t know the aircraft had been hit by gunfire till a flight attendant advised them. Nobody was injured, however the aircraft swiftly retreated to the terminal.

Samuel González, who based Mexico’s particular prosecutor’s workplace for organized crime within the Nineteen Nineties, stated Guzmán’s seize was a “gift” forward of Biden’s go to. The Mexican authorities “is working to have a calm visit,” he stated.

He referred to as the photographs that hit the industrial airliner “without a doubt an act of international terrorism” and instructed it may result in very severe discussions between the 2 governments concerning the implications of those actions.

By night, Téllez remained within the terminal. The federal government had shut down the airport, in addition to airports in Los Mochis and Mazatlan for safety causes.

Asked if the try to seize Guzmán was value one other day of rigidity and uncertainty in Culiacan, Téllez stated, “If they caught him, it was worth it.”

Associated Press writers Fabiola Sánchez and Christopher Sherman contributed to this report.