On Friday, Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval announced that nineteen suspected gang members and ten military personnel were killed in violence surrounding the arrest of Mexican drug cartel leader Ovidio Guzman in the northern state of Sinaloa.
Guzman, the 32-year-old son of imprisoned kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was captured by Mexican security forces early on Thursday morning, leading to a series of clashes and shootouts with gang members.
Guzman was subsequently flown to Mexico City and transferred to a maximum security federal prison.
The arrest caused the Sinaloa Cartel, previously led by El Chapo, to become violent, setting fires and fighting with security forces in and around the capital of Sinaloa, Culiacan. Twenty-one other individuals were also arrested during Thursday’s operations, and there were no reported civilian deaths.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated that there are currently no plans to extradite Ovidio to the United States, where his father is serving a prison sentence after being extradited in 2017. An increased security presence will be maintained in Sinaloa, with an additional 1,000 military personnel being deployed to the region.
An Aeromexico passenger flight at Culiacan airport was shot at on Thursday, although no passengers were injured. The airport is set to reopen on Friday following the violence.
The United States has been attempting to extradite Ovidio Guzman for years, with the State Department offering a $5 million reward in 2021 for information leading to his arrest and conviction. Guzman, also known as “The Mouse,” has been charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the United States.
The State Department claims that he was in charge of methamphetamine labs in Sinaloa that produced 3,000 to 5,000 pounds of the drug per month. Guzman is also accused of ordering several murders, including that of a Mexican singer who refused to perform at his wedding.
The increase in the synthetic opioid fentanyl being smuggled into the United States, which has contributed to a rise in overdose deaths, has further increased the pressure to capture Guzman.
The Sinaloa Cartel, along with one other gang, is believed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to be responsible for the majority of the fentanyl present in the United States.