Sunday, January 29, 2023

Violence hits Mexico cartel stronghold as ‘Chapo’ son nabbed

The sun wasn’t yet up in Culiacan when David Téllez and his family began making their way to the city’s airport for a return flight to Mexico City after their vacation. But not long after they set out they encountered the first crude roadblock, an abandoned vehicle obstructing their way. Téllez turned to social media to find out what was going on and saw that Sinaloa’s state capital, a stronghold of the cartel by the same name, was filled with roadblocks and gunfire.
It would be hours before Mexico’s defense secretary would confirm that the military had captured Ovidio Guzmán, a son of the notorious former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, on Thursday in a pre-dawn operation north of the city.
Just like that, Culiacan was thrust into a day of terror unlike any its residents had experienced since October 2019 — the last time authorities tried to capture the young Guzmán.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has railed against his predecessors’ aggressive efforts to capture drug lords, but his administration bagged the high-profile cartel figure just days before hosting U.S. President Joe Biden, and at least in the short term locals were paying the price.
Culiacan residents posted video on social media showing convoys of gunmen in pickup trucks and SUVs rolling down boulevards in the city. At least one convoy included a flatbed truck with a mounted gun in the back, the same kind of vehicle that caused chaos and mayhem in the 2019 unrest.
All entrances to the city were blocked and similar acts were playing out in other parts of Sinaloa.
The Culiacan municipal government warned: “Don’t leave home! The safety of Culiacan’s citizens is the most important.” Schools, local government and many private businesses closed.
Téllez pressed on trying to get his family back to Mexico City, circumventing several more abandoned vehicles blocking roads and eventually making it to the airport.
There the family hurriedly checked in for their flight before employees of an airport restaurant urged them to shelter in a bathroom. Gunmen were arriving at the airport to prevent authorities from flying Guzmán out.
“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 were reacting to the arrest, Ayala said “People have differing views, but I think the majority are with them” — the Sinaloa cartel.
That may be because of the money the cartel brings to the region, but also because locals know that even after federal troops withdraw, the cartel will still be there. As bad as it is, the cartel has ensured relative stability, if not peace.
Guzmán was indicted by the United States on drug trafficking charges in 2018. According to both governments, he had assumed a growing role among his brothers in carrying on their father’s business, along with long- time cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

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