Mexico’s military arrested Ovidio Guzman, the alleged leader of a major drug trafficking organization suspected of funneling narcotics to the U.S., as violence engulfed the city where the operation took place.
Guzman, one of the sons of incarcerated drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was captured early Thursday in Culiacan, in the Sinaloa state, and transferred to Mexico City, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters. He said Guzman was a source of “violence in four states and in the northwest of the country.”
Blockades, shootings and looting were reported across the city following the military operation, according to local media. One police officer died in the operation and 27 people were injured, most of them police and members of the military, Ruben Rocha Moya, governor of Sinaloa, said in a interview with Radio Formula. The situation was under control as of Thursday night, he said.
The arrest comes days before U.S.’s Joe Biden and Canada’s Justin Trudeau are set to arrive in Mexico for meetings with their counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Security, and particularly the flow of drugs from Mexico into the U.S., is on the agenda.
Ovidio Guzman is considered the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, a top producer and distributor of fentanyl and other drugs. He was released by the Mexican government after his capture in October 2019 led to widespread violence across Culiacan. AMLO, as the Mexican president is known, later acknowledged he’d given the order to release him after previously saying he hadn’t been informed of the operation.
Flights coming in and out of the Culiacan airport were suspended Thursday, but airport facilities remained “secure” and under the control of the National Guard and the Defense Ministry, operator OMA said. Operations were also interrupted at the nearby Mazatlan airport. Aeromexico reported flight cancellations to and from Los Mochis airport and said one of its planes was hit by a bullet at the Culiacan airport.
Ovidio Guzman is also wanted by the U.S. Department of State for narcotics trafficking. It’s offering up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest or conviction. He was handed over to Mexico’s federal prosecutor to determine his legal situation, Sandoval said.
The U.S. has faced a rising number of deaths by fentanyl in recent years. Opioid overdoses killed more than 80,000 people in 2021, and fentanyl played a role in 88% of those cases.