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El Chapo’s son arrested in Mexico ahead of Biden visit

MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzmán, an alleged drug dealer wanted by the United States and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in a pre-dawn operation Thursday that resulted in gunfights. and roadblocks in the western state capital.

Defense Minister Luis Crecencio Sandoval said the army and the National Guard had captured the son of “El Chapo”. Sandoval only identified him as Ovidio, in accordance with government policy.

Ovidio Guzmán was not one of El Chapo’s most famous sons until the operation to capture him was aborted three years ago. The attempt also sparked violence in Culiacan, which eventually led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order the military to release him.

Thursday’s high-profile takeover comes just days before López Obrador will host US President Joe Biden for bilateral talks, followed by a summit of North American leaders with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking, along with immigration, is expected to be a major topic of discussion.

“This is a major blow to the Sinaloa cartel and a major victory for the rule of law. However, this will not prevent the flow of drugs into the US. Let’s hope Mexico extradites him to the US,” Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the DEA, said Thursday.

López Obrador’s approach to security changed years of so-called strategic strategy to eliminate cartel leaders, which led to the fragmentation of large cartels and bloody battles for dominance. López Obrador gave the military his full credit, disbanding the corrupt Federal Police and creating the National Guard under military command.

The takeover was the result of six months of reconnaissance and surveillance in cartel territory, followed by swift action on Thursday, Sandoval said. National Guard troops spotted the SUVs, some with makeshift armor, and immediately coordinated with the army, establishing a perimeter around the suspicious vehicles and forcing them to be searched.

Security forces then came under fire but were able to bring the situation under control and identify Guzmán among those present and in possession of a firearm, Sandoval said.

The cartel members set up 19 roadblocks, including at the Culiacan airport and outside the local military base, and at all access points to the city of Culiacan, Sandoval said, but despite their efforts, the Air Force was able to get Guzmán to Mexico City. he was taken to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Combating Organized Crime of the Attorney General’s Office.

Sandoval said that Guzmán was the leader of the Sinaloa faction, which he called “los menores” or “the younger ones”, who are also known as “los chapitos” after El Chapo’s sons.

Other “little Chapos” include his two brothers, Ivan Arkivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán, who are believed to have run the cartel’s operations alongside Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Vigil said the Chapitos took more control of the cartel because Zambad was in poor health and isolated in the mountains. “The Chapitos know that if El Mayo dies, (the cartel) will fall apart if they don’t get control.”

“It is very important that the US quickly request Ovidio’s extradition and that Mexico does so,” Vigil said.

Alleged cartel members responded to Thursday’s operation by stealing cars from Culiacán residents and setting cars on fire in the cartel’s stronghold. Local and state authorities have warned everyone to stay inside.

Such attempts to create chaos are often made in response to the arrests of important cartel figures in Mexico. One of the most infamous cases occurred when federal security forces cornered Ovidio Guzmán in October 2019, only to let him escape after militants shelled the city with powerful weapons.

López Obrador said he made the decision at the time to avoid loss of life even though the US was seeking Ovidio Guzmán’s extradition on drug trafficking charges. A 2018 federal indictment in Washington, D.C. charged him with conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the United States.

López Obrador took office sharply criticizing his predecessors’ drug war losses. He used the phrase “hugs, not bullets” to describe his approach to Mexico’s chronic violence, which would focus on social programs designed to dampen the pull of organized crime.

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

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AP contributor Fabiola Sanchez contributed to this report.

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