In a pre-dawn operation that resulted in gunfights and roadblocks around the capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, security authorities have apprehended Ovidio Guzman, a suspected drug trafficker wanted by the US and one of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman’s sons.
According to defence secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval, a son of El Chapo - identified by Sandoval only as “Ovidio”, in accordance with government regulation - had been taken into custody by the army and the National Guard.
Thursday’s (5 January) high-profile capture comes just a few days before Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hosts US President Joe Biden for bilateral meetings followed by their attendance at the North American Leaders’ Summit with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Immigration and drug trafficking are anticipated to be the two main topics of conversation at those talks.
“This is a significant blow to the Sinaloa cartel and a major victory for the rule of law. It will not, however, impede the flow of drugs into the US. Hopefully, Mexico will extradite him to the US,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations.
Here is everything you need to know.
Who is Ovidio Guzman?
Prior to an unsuccessful attempt to apprehend him three years ago, Ovidio Guzman was not one of El Chapo’s more well-known sons. Similar unrest was sparked by that effort in the Mexican city of Culiacan, which ultimately prompted President Lopez Obrador to order the military to release Guzman.
Sandoval said Guzman was a leader of a Sinaloa faction he called “los menores” or “the juniors”, who are also known as “los Chapitos”, for the sons of El Chapo.
Other “little Chapos” include two of his brothers – Ivan Archivaldo Guzman and Jesus Alfredo Guzman – who are believed to have been running cartel operations together with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.
Early last year, US Homeland Security Investigations announced a five million dollar (£4.2 million) reward for information that resulted in Guzman’s capture and/or conviction.
A 2018 federal indictment in Washington, DC, accused him of conspiring to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States.
How was he captured?
Defence secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Ovidio’s capture followed swift action on Thursday (5 January), after six months of reconnaissance and surveillance on the Sinaloa cartel’s territory.
When National Guard soldiers observed SUVs, some of which had makeshift armour, they promptly coordinated with the army to set up a cordon around the suspect cars and force the occupants out so they could be searched.
After coming under fire, the security personnel managed to regain control of the situation and locate Ovidio Guzman among those present and in possession of weapons.
Following the operation, alleged cartel members allegedly carjacked locals in Culiacan and set their vehicles alight in the cartel stronghold. Local and state authorities warned everyone to stay inside.
Such attempts to create chaos often come in response to arrests of important cartel figures in Mexico. One of the most notorious came when federal security forces cornered Ovidio Guzman in October 2019, only to let him escape after gunmen shot up the city with high-powered weapons.
President Lopez Obrador said at the time he had made the decision to avoid the loss of life, even though the US was seeking Ovidio Guzman’s extradition on drug trafficking charges.
Where is he now?
Sandoval said the air force was able to fly Guzman to Mexico City despite cartel efforts to block his transportation, and he was taken to offices of the attorney general’s organised crime special prosecutor.
“It’s going to be very important that the US requests Ovidio’s extradition quickly and that Mexico does it,” Vigil said.