Violence hits Mexico cartel stronghold as ‘Chapo’ son nabbed

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MEXICO CITY — The solar wasn’t but up in Culiacan when David Téllez and his household started making their option to 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 automobile obstructing their manner.

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

It might be hours earlier than Mexico’s protection secretary would verify that the navy 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 town.

Similar to that, Culiacan was thrust right into a day of terror in contrast to 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 in opposition to 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 at the least within the quick time period locals had been paying the value.

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

All entrances to town had been blocked and comparable acts had been enjoying 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 properties.

“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 personal companies closed.

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

Téllez pressed on making an attempt to get his household again to Mexico Metropolis, circumventing a number of extra deserted automobiles blocking roads and finally 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 stop 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 at the least since 2019.

“Ovidio’s fate had been decided. Moreover, he was identified as the biggest trafficker of fentanyl and the most visible Chapos leader.” Requested 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.

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

Guzmán was indicted by the US on drug trafficking fees in 2018. In accordance with each governments, he had assumed a rising position 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 the US 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 focuses on 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.”

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

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

He didn’t know the aircraft had been hit by gunfire till a flight attendant advised them. Nobody was injured, however the aircraft rapidly 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 pictures that hit the business airliner “without a doubt an act of international terrorism” and advised 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.

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

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

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