Conflict comes ahead of President Biden’s visit
By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Gunfire erupted between the Mexican Defense Forces and the Sinaloa Cartel after the cartel leader’s son was arrested and shortly after President Joe Biden announced he was meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador next week.
On Thursday, Ovidio Guzman, the son of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was arrested by Mexican authorities, El Universal first reported. El Chapo is currently incarcerated in a maximum security federal prison in Colorado.
Ovidio Guzman was captured by Mexican military forces after they imposed blockades and engaged in gunfire in Culiacán and Los Mochis. He was later transferred to a military prison in Mexico City, Jorge Sánchez Torres with NRM Comunicaciones reported.
Ovidio Guzman was indicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges in 2018 and has played a major role in the trafficking of fentanyl into the U.S. In 2019, the U.S. sought his extradition. Mexican forces apprehended him in October 2019 but were soon ordered to release him by President Obrador.
At a press conference on Oct. 26, 2019, President Obrador said he released Ovidio Guzman because after he was arrested, members of the cartel mobilized in response “with high-powered weapons” and attacked “military housing units,” kidnapped soldiers, and placed themselves “in strategic places in Culiacán.” When the Army intervened, he said the cartels hit one of their helicopters. He released Ovidio Guzman to prevent a “confrontation in the middle of the city that was possibly going to cause the death of hundreds of people,” El Universal reported.
On Thursday after Ovidio Guzman was re-arrested, gunfire and violence erupted in a region controlled by one of the most dangerous and ruthless cartels in the world.
“Members of the Sinaloa cartel ambushed and killed Infantry Colonel Juan José in the vicinity of Escuinapa Moreno Orzua and his escorts,” Mr. Sánchez Torres reported.
Ovidio Guzman’s capture, he said, “led to shootings, burning of vehicles, blockades, looting and shooting at civil and military aircraft” by cartel and gang members.
Mr. Sánchez Torres also posted video taken by Aeromexico airline passengers, reporting: “Members of the Sinaloa cartel shoot down an Aeromexico plane and prevent it from taking off at the Culiacán International Airport, in retaliation for the capture in said city of Ovidio Guzmán, son of ‘El Chapo,’ in the same way they attacked aircraft of the forces feds.”
An “armed group of the Sinaloa cartel, after taking the runways of the Culiacán International Airport, prevented the takeoff of planes with firearms,” he said. Aeromexico also issued a statement, saying a bullet had impacted the plane’s fuselage and the flight was canceled for security reasons.
A Sedena plane was also fired upon when arriving at the Culiacán Airport, Mr. Sanchez Torres reported. He also posted a video in which gunfire can be heard in the vicinity of the Culiacan Prison in Sinaloa where many cartel members are imprisoned.
“War has broken out between Mexican Defense Forces and the Sinaloa Cartel in Culiacan in response to the arrest of El Chapo’s son,” The Libertarian Party caucus reported, also posting a video of the Aeromexico civilian flight.
At the end of the day, at least 29 people were killed in the gunfire, including 10 members of the military and 19 alleged cartel members, Mexican Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Friday. At least 21 suspects were arrested and 35 members of the Mexican Military were wounded, Mr. Sandoval said.
Samuel González, who founded a special prosecutor’s office for organized crime in Mexico, told the AP that “Guzmán’s capture was a ‘gift’” ahead of President Biden’s visit. He also said the bullets that hit the Aeromexico plane were “without a doubt an act of international terrorism.”
The New York Times reported last July that the cartels were earning $13 billion a year trafficking foreign nationals illegally into the U.S. in 2019, which has since increased astronomically.
Since President Biden’s been in office, well over 5 million people have been apprehended or reported evading capture from law enforcement after illegally entering the U.S. primarily through the southern border, with a record of over 3.3 million in fiscal 2022.
President Biden plans on Sunday to visit El Paso, a major trafficking destination of the Sinaloa Cartel and its gang affiliates where people are increasingly being kidnapped, the FBI has warned. Across from El Paso, in Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexican forces also engaged in gunfire with Sinaloa Cartel members and gang members, most recently in the Los Aztecas neighborhood after 27 inmates escaped prison on Jan. 1.
Known criminals and sex offenders are continuing to illegally enter Texas, pursued by Texas law enforcement, and caught by Border Patrol and other law enforcement partners, with record apprehensions in fiscal 2022.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called on President Biden to secure the border, arguing his actions have only emboldened cartel and criminal activity in Texas and the United States.