An intense gunfight with heavy weapons and burning vehicles blocking roads raged in the capital of Mexico’s Sinaloa state on Thursday after security forces located one of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s sons who are wanted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges. Mexican security secretary Alfonso Durazo said 30 members of the National Guard and army were patrolling in Culiacan when they were fired on from a house. They repelled the attack and inside the house found Ovidio Guzmán López.
The house was then surrounded by heavily armed gunmen who had “a greater force” and authorities decided to suspend the operation, Durazo said. He did not say if Ovidio Guzmán was arrested or went free after being located.
Ovidio was not one of the jailed Mexican drug lord’s best-known sons - Iván Archivaldo Guzmán and Jesús Alfredo Guzmán are known as “Los Chapitos,” or “the little Chapos,” and are believed to currently run their father’s Sinaloa Cartel together with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
But Ovidio Guzmán was indicted in 2018 by a grand jury in Washington, along with a fourth brother, for the alleged trafficking of cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
Following Thursday’s localization of Ovidio, local media reported that armed civilians in trucks roared through Culiacan’s center shooting what appeared to be .50-caliber sniper rifles and machine guns. There was a heavy deployment of Mexican security forces.
Videos published on social media showed a scene resembling a war zone, with gunmen, some wearing black ski masks over their faces, riding in the back of trucks firing mounted machine guns as vehicles burned. People could be seen running for cover as machinegun fire rattled around them. Drivers drove in reverse frantically to move away from the clashes. Some drivers rolled under their stationary cars for cover.
Sinaloa public safety director Cristóbal Castañeda told Milenio television the army launched the operation Thursday afternoon and soon afterward government surveillance cameras alerted authorities that gunmen in vehicles were circulating in Culiacan.
Castañeda said gunmen blocked streets with burning vehicles, a common tactic to make it difficult for security forces to maneuver. Simultaneously, some 20 to 30 prisoners escaped though some were quickly recaptured, he said. State officials asked residents to avoid going out in parts of the city. Sinaloa’s soccer club Dorados announced that it had canceled its game Thursday due to security concerns.
Sinaloa is home to the cartel by the same name, which was led by “El Chapo” Guzmán. Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison in the United States in July. He has many children.
After Guzmán’s third arrest in 2016, an internal battle for succession began playing out. The battle was resolved with the arrest of Damaso López Nunez and his son Dámaso López Serrano, who led a rival faction. Since then “Los Chapitos” and Zambada are believed to have run the cartel.