Ovidio Guzmán, an alleged drug trafficker and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was captured by Mexican security forces in a pre-dawn raid Thursday that sparked exchanges of gunfire and blockades in the capital of the western state.
According to The Associated Press, Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval credited members of the Mexican Army and National Guard with the capture of El Chapo’s son, whom he identified as Ovidio.
A failed operation to capture Ovidio Guzmán three years ago gained him recognition and set off a wave of violence in Culiacan that ultimately led to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordering the military to release him.
In the city of Culiacan, cars were torched and residents were carjacked by alleged cartel members on Wednesday night and into Thursday, according to Al Jazeera. While authorities have not said what triggered the violence, such actions often occur after the arrest of a cartel member.
“Do not leave home!” Culiacan Mayor Juan de Dios Gamez tweeted. “The safety of the citizens of Culiacan is the most important thing.”
Ovidio Guzmán’s capture comes just days before President Joe Biden will travel to Mexico for bilateral talks followed by a North American Leaders’ Summit with Biden, López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking and immigration are expected to be hot topics of discussion.
According to the AP, López Obrador’s security strategy departed from the kingpin strategy of taking down cartel leaders, which led to the fragmentation of large cartels and cutthroat battles for dominance. The Mexican head of state dismantled the corrupt Federal Police and created the National Guard, placing the new unit under military command.
“This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and major victory for the rule of law,” Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, told the AP Thursday. “It will not, however, impede the flow of drugs into the U.S. Hopefully, Mexico will extradite him to the U.S.”
Ovidio is not one of El Chapo’s more well-known sons, all of whom are known collectively as “Los Chapitos,” or “the little Chapos.” Sons Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán are believed to be running their father’s cartel along with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Vigil said the Chapitos have been taking greater control of the cartel because Zambada was in poor health and isolated in the mountains.
“The Chapitos know that if El Mayo dies, (the cartel) is going to break apart if they don’t have control,” he said. “It’s going to be very important that the U.S. requests Ovidio’s extradition quickly and that Mexico does it.