MEXICO CITY, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said on Friday that the arrest of Mexican drug cartel leader Ovidio Guerra in the northern state of Sinaloa A wave of violence in Ovidio Guzman killed 19 suspected gang members and 10 members of the military.
The minister said Mexican security forces arrested Guzman, the 32-year-old son of jailed leader Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, in the early hours of Thursday, sparking hours of rioting and shootouts with gang members.
Sandoval added that Guzman was evacuated by helicopter from the house where he was arrested and flown to Mexico City before being taken to a maximum security federal prison.
The arrest prompted the powerful Sinaloa cartel – once led by El Chapo himself – to go on a rampage, setting fire to vehicles, blocking roads and battling security forces in and around Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state.
Another 21 people were arrested in Thursday’s operation, Sandoval told a news conference, adding that there were no reports of any civilian deaths.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said there were no plans to extradite Ovidio to the United States, where his father was extradited in 2017 and is in New York After being found guilty by the court, he was held in a maximum security prison.
“The elements (of the case) must be presented and it is up to the judges in Mexico,” the president said. “It’s a process … not just a request.” Lopez Obrador said there was no U.S. military assistance in capturing Ovidio.
To protect the public, Sinaloa on Mexico’s Pacific coast will now have a beefed-up security presence, with 1,000 troops also heading to the area today, Sandoval said.
Passengers on an Aeromexico passenger flight crouched under their seats as gunshots rang out around the runway at Culiacan airport on Thursday.
“As we accelerated to take off, we heard gunfire very close to the plane and that’s when we all fell to the ground,” passenger David Tellez said. Aeromexico said one of its planes was shot at in Culiacan, but no one was hurt.
The airport, which was closed due to the violence, was due to reopen later on Friday.
In 2019, an operation to arrest Ovidio failed, embarrassing the government of Lopez Obrador. Security forces briefly detained Ovidio at the time, sparking a backlash from cartel supporters that led authorities to quickly release him to avoid further threats of reprisals from his followers.
His latest capture comes ahead of next week’s summit of North American leaders in Mexico City, which will be attended by U.S. President Joe Biden. Security cooperation should be on the agenda.
The United States has sought Guzman’s extradition for years.
In 2021, the State Department announced a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
Guzman, nicknamed “The Rat,” has been charged in the United States with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. He oversees a methamphetamine laboratory in Sinaloa that produces “3,000 to 5,000 pounds” of the drug each month, the State Department said.
The State Department also said it had information that he had ordered the murders of multiple cases, including a Mexican pop singer who refused to perform at his wedding.
The flood of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States has caused a record number of overdose deaths, increasing pressure to catch Guzman.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration believes the Sinaloa cartel and other gangs are responsible for most of the fentanyl in the United States.
Additional reporting by Dave GrahamEdited by Alistair Bell
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.