Mexican security forces captured Ovidio Guzmán, an alleged drug trafficker wanted by the United States and one of the sons of former Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in a pre-dawn operation that set off gunfights and roadblocks across the western state’s capital.
Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Army and National Guard personnel had captured a son of “El Chapo.” Sandoval identified him only as Ovidio, in keeping with government policy.
Ovidio Guzmán, nicknamed “the Mouse,” had not been one of El Chapo’s better-known sons until an aborted operation to capture him three years ago. That attempt similarly set off violence in Culiacan that ultimately led President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to order the military to let him go.
Thursday’s high-profile capture comes just days before López Obrador will host U.S. President Joe Biden for bilateral talks followed by their North American Leaders’ Summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Drug trafficking, along with immigration, is expected to be a top talking point.
“This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and major victory for the rule of law. It will not, however, impede the flow of drugs into the U.S. Hopefully, Mexico will extradite him to the U.S.,” Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former Chief of International Operations, said Thursday.
Vigil said that Ovidio Guzmán was involved in all of the cartel’s activities, especially the production of fentanyl. A 2018 federal indictment in Washington, D.C., accused the younger Guzmán of conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States.
The CDC said last July that more than 107,000 Americans had died from a drug overdose during the year ending January 2022, most of them involving opioids including illegally made fentanyl.
López Obrador’s security approach reversed years of what came to be known as the kingpin strategy of taking down cartel leaders, which led to the fragmentation of large cartels and bloody battles for dominance. López Obrador put all his faith in the military, disbanding the corrupt Federal Police and creating the National Guard under military command.
The capture was the result of six months of reconnaissance and surveillance in the cartel’s territory, and then quick action on Thursday, Sandoval said. National Guard troops spotted SUVs, some with homemade armor, and immediately coordinated with the army as they established a perimeter around the suspicious vehicles and forced the occupants out to be searched.
The security forces then came under fire, but were able to gain control of the situation and identify Guzmán among those present and in possession of firearms, Sandoval said.