Mexican authorities captured suspected drug cartel boss Ovidio Guzman — the 32-year-old son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman — at a house in the northern state of Sinaloa in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Guzman was extracted by helicopter and flown to Mexico City before being taken to a maximum-security federal prison, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said on Friday.
His arrest sparked a wave of violence and unrest across multiple parts of Sinaloa.
Nineteen suspected gang members and 10 military personnel were reportedly killed in the resulting violence, which included Sinaloa Cartel members setting vehicles on fire, blocking roads, and exchanging gunfire with security forces in and around Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa.
Twenty-one other people were arrested during Thursday’s operations, Sandoval stated during a news conference, adding there were no reports of civilian deaths.
State Governor Ruben Rocha said a colonel was among the military personnel killed, and 21 were injured, including eight civilians.
Rocha said there had been 12 clashes with the security forces, 25 acts of looting, and 250 vehicles had been set on fire and used to block roads.
Culiacan’s airport was also swept up in the violence, with airline Aeromexico reporting that one of its planes was hit with bullets as it was scheduled to take off to Mexico City, according to Reuters.
Mexico’s federal aviation agency said a Mexican Air Force plane was shot at as well, Reuters reported.
El Chapo headed the powerful Sinaloa Cartel before his extradition to the United States in 2017. Since his father’s extradition, Ovidio Guzman had allegedly assumed prominent roles in the Cartel.
The cartel has long been a significant exporter of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana, and it has emerged as one of the top suppliers of fentanyl in recent years.
The United States has sought Guzman’s extradition for years, even announcing a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction in 2021.
Ovidio has been charged in the United States with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the country. The State Department said he oversaw methamphetamine labs in Sinaloa, which produced “3,000 to 5,000 pounds” of the drug per month.
An increased surge of fentanyl pouring into the United States, where it has fueled record overdose deaths, had also heightened pressure to capture Guzman.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration considers the Sinaloa Cartel to be one of the two gangs responsible for most of the fentanyl inside the United States.
The State Department also said information indicated Ovidio had ordered multiple murders, including that of a famous Mexican singer who had refused to perform at his wedding.
It is unclear whether Ovidio will be extradited to the United States like his father, who is serving a life sentence at Colorado’s Supermax, the U.S.’s most secure federal prison, after being found guilty in a New York court.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said there were no immediate plans to extradite Ovidio to the United States.
“The elements (of the case) have to be presented, and the judges in Mexico decide,” the president said. “It is a process. … It is not just the request.”
No U.S. forces assisted in Ovidio’s capture, Lopez Obrador said.
Thursday was the second time Ovidio was taken into federal custody. Mexican authorities previously detained Ovidio Guzmán in 2019 but quickly released him as Sinaloa cartel gunmen seized control of much of Culiacan.
The arrest of the son of “El Chapo” Guzmán comes days before U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit the country and press for action against criminal groups that have flooded the U.S. with fentanyl.