The son of notorious Mexican drug cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was arrested Thursday after a six-month interagency investigation, Mexican authorities confirmed.
During an afternoon news conference, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Guzmán’s son – whom he identified only as “Ovidio” – was arrested early Thursday morning in northwest Culiacan, in the state of Sinaloa.
Sandoval said Guzmán was a leader of a Sinaloa faction he called “los menors” or “the juniors,” who are also known as “Los Chapitos,” after El Chapo’s sons.
Guzmán’s arrest was the result of six months of investigation and interagency surveillance work, Sandoval said.
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National Guard troops spotted SUVs, some with homemade armor, and immediately coordinated with the military as they set up a perimeter around the suspicious vehicles and force-searched the occupants.
Security forces came under fire, but were able to control the situation and identify Guzmán among those present and in possession of firearms, Sandoval said.
Cartel members set up 19 roadblocks, including the Culiacan airport and outside the local army base, as well as all access points to the city of Culiacan, Sandoval said, but the Air Force was able to bring Guzmán to Mexico City despite his efforts, and he was transferred to the offices of the special prosecutor’s office for organized crime of the attorney general.
Ovidio Guzmán, nicknamed “the mouse,” had not been one of El Chapo’s best-known sons until an aborted operation to capture him three years ago. Similarly, this attempt unleashed violence in Culiacan that eventually led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order the military to let him go.
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US Homeland Security Investigations had posted a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzmán’s arrest and/or conviction last year.
Suspected cartel members responded to Thursday’s operation by stealing cars from Culiacan residents and setting fire to vehicles in the cartel stronghold. State and local authorities warned everyone to stay indoors.
Intermittent gunfire continued Thursday afternoon in Culiacan as Mexican security forces continued to clash with cartel gunmen and few people ventured out. Airports there and in several other cities in Sinaloa remained closed.
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Thursday’s high-profile capture comes just days before Lopez Obrador hosts US President Joe Biden for bilateral talks following his summit of US leaders with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking, along with immigration, is expected to be the main topic of conversation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.