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Mexico arrests son of ‘El Chapo’

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MEXICO –

Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzman, a suspected drug trafficker wanted by the United States and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in an operation before dawn Thursday that sparked shootings and roadblocks across the western state. Capital city.

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said army and National Guard personnel captured a son of “El Chapo”. Sandoval identified him only as Ovidio, in accordance with government policy.

Ovidio Guzman was not one of El Chapo’s best-known sons until a failed operation to capture him three years ago. This attempt also sparked violence in Culiacan which eventually led President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to order the military to let him go.

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

“This is a blow for the Sinaloa Cartel and a major victory for the rule of law. It will not, however, stop the flow of drugs to the United States. Hopefully Mexico will extradite him to the United States. United,” said Mike Vigil, ex-DEA. chief of international operations, said Thursday.

Lopez Obrador’s approach to security reversed years of what was known as the pivotal strategy of eliminating cartel bosses, leading to the fragmentation of large cartels and bloody battles for dominance. . Lopez Obrador put all his faith in the military, dismantling the corrupt Federal Police and creating the National Guard under military command.

The capture is the result of six months of reconnaissance and surveillance in cartel territory and then swift action on Thursday, Sandoval said. National Guard troops spotted SUVs, some with homemade armor, and immediately coordinated with the military as they established a perimeter around suspicious vehicles and forced the occupants to be searched.

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

Cartel members set up 19 roadblocks, including at Culiacan airport and outside the local military base, as well as all access points to Culiacan town, Sandoval said, but the Air Force was able to transport Guzman to Mexico City despite their efforts, and he was taken to the Offices of the Attorney General’s Organized Crime Special Prosecutor.

Sandoval said Guzman was the leader of a faction in Sinaloa 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 allegedly ran cartel operations with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

The Chapitos took greater control over 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 break apart if they don’t have control.”

“It will be very important for the United States to request Ovidio’s extradition quickly and for Mexico to do so,” Vigil said.

Suspected cartel members responded to Thursday’s operation by hijacking Culiacan residents and torching vehicles in the cartel stronghold. Local and state authorities have warned everyone to stay indoors.

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

Lopez Obrador said at the time that he made the decision to avoid death, even if the United States seeks Ovidio Guzman’s extradition for drug trafficking. A 2018 federal indictment in Washington, DC charged him with conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States.

Lopez Obrador came into office strongly criticizing his predecessors’ drug war record. He adopted the phrase “hugs, not bullets” to describe his approach to chronic violence in Mexico, which would focus on social programs aimed at undermining the lure of organized crime.

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


AP writer Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report

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