Ovidio Guzmán, Sinaloa Cartel underboss and son of “El Chapo,” arrested in Mexico

By January 5, 2023

Mexico City, Mexico — Ovidio Guzmán, high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel and son of jailed cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán-Loera, was apprehended by Mexican authorities on Thursday morning in Culiacan, Sinaloa, northern Mexico. 

This is Guzman’s second arrest by Mexican authorities. In 2019, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered his release after a brief detention when cartel members caused chaos on the streets of Culiacan following his capture. 

Minister of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval confirmed the 32-year-old underboss’ arrest at a press conference with other security agencies in Mexico. 

Sandoval revealed that for six months, federal authorities had been conducting surveillance in the area of influence of Guzman’s criminal group. 

The operation that led to Guzman’s arrest on Thursday occurred in the early morning hours when members of the National Guard identified armed individuals aboard armored pick-up trucks in Culiacan, which led authorities to establish a security perimeter around the vehicles to inspect them.

According to Sandoval’s briefing, members of the National Guard were soon shot at by people inside the vehicles. After subduing the assault, authorities were able to identify Ovidio Guzmán. 

Reportedly, four military officials were killed during the confrontation. 

“Ovidio N is the leader of the ‘Los Menores’ faction of the Pacific cartel, which generates violence in four states and the country’s northwest region. He is the son of Joaquin Guzman Loera, who is imprisoned in the United States of America,” said Sandoval at the briefing.  

Violence in Northwestern Mexico 

Following the arrest, criminal groups allied to Guzman again unleashed violence in Culiacan. They erected 19 blockades and participated in armed skirmishes in different parts of the city, including at the international airport and a military air base, according to Defense Minister Sandoval. 

Social media and news outlets have documented the violence scourging the city. Shootings, torching of vehicles, and chaos sown by criminal groups have affected Culiacan residents in the hours after the cartel boss’ capture.

All access points to the city of Culiacan were blocked, and some sources have reported that civilians have been forced out of their vehicles by organized crime groups. 

As a response, the state government has urged the population of Culiacan to remain inside their houses and avoid traveling.

Guzman was flown from the location of his arrest to Mexico City in a military airplane. He is reportedly in custody at “Campo Militar 1,” in the country’s capital. 

El Culiacanazo 

Guzmán had been previously apprehended by authorities on October 17, 2019. However, he was soon freed at the order of López Obrador, following violent altercations by Guzmán’s organization demanding his liberation. 

El Culiacanazo, as it became known, was an embarrassment for the Mexican government and resulted in the killing of nine members of the security forces by the cartel. 

Guzmán’s release has been described as one of López Obrador’s biggest blunders. It also helped create tensions with the United States, who want to extradite Guzman for drug trafficking charges, offering up to USD $20 million for information leading to his capture. 

Guzman’s arrest comes days before U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Mexico, drawing accusations that the Mexican government carried out the arrest in the interests of its northern neighbor.