At least 29 killed in Mexico capture of Chapo’s son; U.S. extradition not guaranteed
MEXICO CITY, Jan 6 (Reuters) – Nineteen suspected gang members and 10 military personnel were killed in a wave of violence surrounding the arrest of Mexican drug cartel boss Ovidio Guzman in the northern state of Sinaloa, Defense Minister Luis said on Friday. Cresencio Sandoval.
Mexican security forces captured Guzman, the 32-year-old son of jailed kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in the early hours of Thursday morning, sparking hours of unrest and shootouts with gang members, the minister said.
Guzman was airlifted from the home where he was captured and flown to Mexico City, before being sent to a maximum-security federal prison, Sandoval added.
The arrest prompted the powerful Sinaloa cartel – once headed by El Chapo himself – to go on a rampage, setting fire to vehicles, blocking roads and battling security forces in and around Culiacan, Sinaloa’s capital.
Twenty-one other people were arrested during Thursday’s operations, Sandoval told a news conference, adding that there were no reports of any civilian deaths.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he had no immediate plans to extradite Ovidio to the United States, where his father is in a maximum-security prison after being extradited in 2017 and found guilty in a New York court.
“The elements (of the case) must be presented and the judges in Mexico will decide,” the president said. “It’s a process… It’s not just a request.” No US forces had helped capture Ovidio, Lopez Obrador said.
An increased security presence will now remain in Sinaloa, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, to protect the public, with 1,000 additional military personnel traveling to the region today, Sandoval said.
Passengers on an Aeromexico passenger flight at Culiacan airport ducked under their seats as gunfire erupted around the runway Thursday.
“As we were speeding up to take off, we heard gunshots very close to the plane, and that’s when we all fell to the floor,” said passenger David Tellez. Aeromexico said one of its planes was hit by gunfire in Culiacan, but no one was injured.
The airport was due to reopen later on Friday after being closed due to the violence.
In 2019, a failed operation to arrest Ovidio ended in humiliation for Lopez Obrador’s government. At the time, security forces briefly detained Ovidio, sparking a violent backlash from cartel loyalists and leading authorities to quickly release him to avoid the threat of further retribution from his henchmen.
His latest arrest comes ahead of a summit of North American leaders in Mexico City next week, which will be attended by US President Joe Biden. Cooperation for security is expected to be on the agenda.
QUESTION OF EXTRADITION
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, known by the nickname “Rat”, has been charged in the United States with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States. The State Department said he oversaw methamphetamine labs in Sinaloa, responsible for producing “3,000 to 5,000 pounds” of the drug a month.
The State Department also said intelligence indicated he had ordered multiple killings, including that of a popular Mexican singer who had refused to perform at his wedding.
Increasing flows of the synthetic opioid fentanyl into the United States, where it has caused record overdose deaths, has increased pressure to capture Guzman.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration considers the Sinaloa Cartel, along with another gang, to be responsible for most of the fentanyl inside the United States.
Additional reporting by Dave Graham Editing by Alistair Bell
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