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Mexico captures Ovidio Guzmán, son of drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo ...

Mexico captures Ovidio Guzmán son of drug lord Joaquín El Chapo
Mexican drug cartel leader Ovidio Guzmán, a son of jailed kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, is arrested in Mexico, unleashing a violent backlash by gang gunmen.

Mexican drug cartel leader Ovidio Guzmán, a son of jailed kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, has been arrested, unleashing a violent backlash by gang gunmen that shut the airport in the city of Culiacan as authorities told residents to stay indoors.

Key points:
  • Mexican security forces have announced the capture of 32-year-old son of jailed drug kingpin Joaquín 'El Chapo'  Guzmán
  • It comes three years after he was arrested and released in a humiliating moment for the Mexican government
  • The arrest has sparked a wave of violence on the streets of Culiacan in the northern state of Sinaloa

Defence Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told a news conference that security forces had captured the 32-year-old senior member of the Sinaloa Cartel.

The arrest comes three years after an attempt to detain him ended in humiliation for the government, when it was forced to release him shortly after to stem the flow of violence that erupted on the streets of Culiacan by gunman aligned to the Sinaloa Cartel.

Ovidio Guzmán was now being held in the capital Mexico City, Mr Sandoval said.

Videos shared on social media, which Reuters was unable to immediately verify, appeared to show heavy fighting overnight in Culiacan, the main city in the northern state of Sinaloa, with the sky lit up by helicopter gunfire.

The city's airport was the target of violence, with Mexican airline Aeromexico saying one of its planes had been hit by gunfire ahead of a scheduled flight to Mexico City.

No-one was hurt, Aeromexico said, and the plane, believed to be an Embraer 190, returned to the gate.

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Mexican passengers take cover on plane after El Chapo's son arrested(David Tellez)

Mexico's federal aviation agency said a Mexican air force plane had also been shot at, and the airport in Culiacan, as well as in the Sinaloa cities of Mazatlan and Los Mochis, would remain closed until security could be assured.

Ovidio Guzmán, who has become a key figure in the cartel since the arrest of his father, was briefly detained in 2019 but was quickly released to end violent retribution in Culiacan from his gang.

The incident was an embarrassing setback for the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

His latest capture comes before a North American leaders' summit in Mexico City next week, which US President Joe Biden will attend and at which security issues are on the agenda.

One of the Mexican officials said Ovidio Guzman's arrest was likely to prove a welcome addition to US-Mexico cooperation on security ahead of Mr Biden's visit.

The United States had offered a $US5 million ($7.4 million) reward for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Ovidio Guzmán.

It not yet clear whether Ovidio Guzmán will be extradited to the United States like his father, who is serving a life sentence at Colorado's ADX Florence, the most secure US federal supermax prison.

A surge in overdose deaths in the United States, fuelled by the synthetic opioid fentanyl, has led to increased pressure on Mexico to combat the organisations — such as the Sinaloa Cartel — responsible for producing and shipping the drug.

The cartel is one of the world's most powerful narcotics trafficking organisations.

"This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and major victory for the rule of law," said Mike Vigil, the DEA's former chief of international operations.

"It will not, however, impede the flow of drugs into the US. Hopefully, Mexico will extradite him to the US."

Mr Vigil said that Ovidio Guzmán was involved in all of the cartel's activities, especially the production of fentanyl.

For Tomas Guevara, a security expert at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, Ovidio Guzmán's arrest helps save face for Mexican law enforcement following the humiliation of having to let El Chapo's son go in 2019.

"The detention of Ovidio is finally the culmination of something that was planned three years ago," he said.

It might also herald a change in approach by the government, Mr Guevara added, after criticism from many security experts that Mr Lopez Obrador was soft on the cartels, an accusation he denies.

The president argues the confrontational tactics of his predecessors were unsuccessful and only caused more bloodshed, saying he would instead pursue a strategy of "hugs not bullets".

Culiacan residents urged to stay indoors
A burnt bus sits on a wide street as a truck burns alongside it in Culiacan, Mexico.
Buses, trucks and other vehicles were set on fire in Culiacan by cartel members following the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán.(Reuters)

On Thursday morning, security forces were attempting to contain a violent reaction to the arrest in the Culiacan area by Ovidio Guzmán's associates.

Burned vehicles were scattered on the streets and heavily armed law enforcement patrolled in trucks.

"We continue to work on controlling the situation," said Cristobal Castaneda, Sinaloa's public security chief.

Local government urged people to stay indoors and said schools and administrative offices were closed due to the violence.

Street blockades had also been erected.

"We ask the citizens of Culiacan not to leave home due to the blockades that have occurred in different parts of the city," Culiacan Mayor Juan de Dios Gamez wrote on Twitter.

Joaquin
Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was extradited to the US from Mexico in 2017.(Reuters)

Joaquín Guzmán, 65, was convicted in New York in 2019 of trafficking billions of dollars of drugs to the United States and conspiring to murder enemies.

Eduardo Guerrero, director of Lantia Consulting, which analyses Mexican organised crime, said that recent pressure from the Biden administration to target the Sinaloa Cartel had likely motivated Mexico to go after Ovidio Guzmán.

But he warned that while Ovidio's capture was likely to weaken that cartel, it could help their main rival, the notoriously violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

"It's very important the government bear in mind that the weakening of the Sinaloa Cartel may also bring about an even greater expansion, a greater presence of the Jalisco Cartel," Mr Guerrero said.

Reuters/AP

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