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Mexican authorities arrest Ovidio Guzman, son of 'El Chapo'

By Sarah May
|
January 6, 2023

Mexican authorities announced Thursday afternoon that the country's armed forces had arrested Ovidio Guzman, 32, head of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel and the son of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who is serving a life prison term in the United States, as ABC News reports.

The raid that resulted in Guzman's capture was said to have occurred overnight in a small town near Sinaloa's capital, Culiacan.

“The Mouse”

The younger Guzman, nicknamed “The Mouse,” has served as a top leader in the Sinaloa drug cartel ever since his father was arrested back in 2016, according to NBC News, and the opioid epidemic fueled by cartel activity has increased pressure on authorities to secure his capture.

As such, the United States government has long sought the extradition of Guzman, with the State Department in late 2021 offering a reward of $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.

Charges in the United States against Guzman go all the way back to 2018 and include allegations of manufacturing or distributing large amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana for illegal importation into America.

State Department estimates have suggested that the methamphetamine labs overseen by Guzman generate between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds of drugs on a monthly basis, and the agency has also implicated the infamous drug lord's son in numerous murders inside Mexico.

Guzman's father, known as “El Chapo,” was a similarly prolific offender, and he was convicted in the U.S. on charges of conducting an ongoing criminal enterprise that encompassed large-scale drug violations, drug trafficking conspiracies, murder conspiracy, money laundering, and unlawful use of firearms.

29 killed during arrest

The arrest of Guzman was itself a volatile, and indeed, deadly affair, with the BBC reporting that 29 people were killed during the events that ended with his capture.

Amid the operation to obtain custody of Guzman, 10 soldiers as well as 19 suspects died, prompting retaliation from gang members, who reportedly erected roadblocks, attacked an area airport, and lit vehicles on fire.

According to Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval, another 35 military members sustained injuries and 21 gunmen were arrested in what was the culmination of a six-month surveillance operation designed to bring Guzman to justice.

A pair of Mexican Air Force planes had to make emergency landings after being hit by cartel fire, according to Sandoval, but throughout the ordeal, Mexican military personnel attempted to prevent innocent individuals from being caught up in the violence, and, according to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, no civilian deaths were reported.

Presidential redemption?

Mexican authorities had long faced criticism for a bungled attempt to arrest Guzman back in 2019, when cartel thugs successfully thwarted their mission by initiating violent urban warfare and terrorizing the citizenry in and around Culiacan.

Their actions prompted Lopez Obrador to eventually order the release of Guzman in order to safeguard the general population against the threat of increased cartel savagery.

Unsurprisingly, those events led to a belief among many that the Mexican government was taking an unduly lax approach to drug gangs, though Guzman's arrest may now go a long way toward reversing that impression, as NBC News noted.

Gift to Biden?

The outlet further observed that Guzman's capture took place at a particularly noteworthy moment, with a summit between President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Lopez Obrador is scheduled for next week.

Speculation has swirled about whether pressure on Mexico from the Biden administration to take stronger steps to rein in the cartels may have prompted Guzman's dramatic arrest as a gesture of appeasement, though ABC News noted that Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary, Marcelo Ebrad, denied such a connection.

Quashing the suggestion that the arrest was something of a “gift” to Biden ahead of the summit, Ebrad said, “This operation was kept extremely confidential by the authorities in charge of doing so, and there was no intermediation or political consultation. There is no link between the operation and the summit.”

Biden is set to participate in the summit on Jan. 9 and 10 and, according to reports, drug trafficking and immigration are likely to be key topics of discussion, ss the arrest of Guzman is an achievement Mexico will almost certainly tout as a sign of good faith in the ongoing battle to cripple the cartels.