MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities captured a son of drug lord El Chapo in an early morning operation in Culiacan, a northwestern city that has long been the Sinaloa Cartel’s home base, according to three Mexican government officials.
The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the raid, said security forces had arrested Ovidio Guzmán López, the son of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo. Two officials said Mr Guzmán López had been transferred to a military base in Mexico City.
The capture of El Chapo’s son, himself a prominent cartel leader, allows the government to claim victory in its efforts to combat violence during one of the deadliest periods in Mexico’s recent history.
It was not clear how the capture of Ovidio, by long the least affluent of Mr. Guzmán’s sons, would affect cartel activities.
But for the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador it was an opportunity to make amends for a similar, failed operation three years earlier, when Mexican authorities briefly detained Guzmán López but were overpowered by cartel gunmen. After being forced to free them. enforcement.
It also represents a public relations victory for the government before Mr Lopez Obrador prepares to host President Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada at a North American leaders’ summit in Mexico City.
On Thursday, armed groups set vehicles on fire and blocked major roads in the city, according to one of the officials. In the video shared on social media, buses and tractor-trolleys are seen on fire. The Culiacan airport confirmed via Twitter that it was closed for security reasons.
The officer said, “Culiacan is a desert.” “The Red Cross has deployed to the city as well as the fire department.”
The Guzmán family has a long history of evading capture by the Mexican authorities. El Chapo broke out of prison twice. Federal prosecutors in the United States say his sons helped make his infamous escape from a maximum-security detention center in 2015 through a mile-long tunnel dug in the shower of his cell.
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Mr. Guzmán López’s US attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, who also represented the father, declined to comment on Thursday’s arrest. A spokeswoman for the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn, which filed charges in 2019 against Guzmán López and one of his brothers, declined to comment on whether prosecutors have made an extradition request.
In October 2019, security forces stormed Culiacan, taking El Chapo’s son, Mr. Guzmán López, into custody – and after cartel gunmen opened fire on the city with automatic gunfire, burning cars and taking members of the security forces hostage After that he was released.
At the time, Mr. López Obrador defended the release, saying that authorities had to balance detaining Mr. Guzmán against ensuring the public’s safety.
“The situation had gotten very bad and too many civilians were at risk, too many people, and the decision was made to protect people’s lives,” López Obrador told reporters. “You cannot value the life of a criminal more than the lives of people.”
But the episode became a national disgrace for the López Obrador administration and cast doubt on the government’s ability to take on cartels in the regions of the country where they have the most power.
Mr. Guzmán López and his brother, Joaquín Guzmán López, were charged by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn in February 2019 with “knowingly, knowingly and intentionally” importing into the United States to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
Those charges were made public just a day after the elder Guzmán was indicted after a three-month trial in Brooklyn that revealed the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel and how it shipped tons of drugs into the United States.
The same team of prosecutors also brought federal drug charges against the elder Guzmán’s most recent wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro. Ms Coronel later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.
allen feuer Contributed reporting from New York.
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