Nearly 4,500 soldiers remain deployed in Culiacán and surrounding towns following the Sinaloa Cartel’s offensive to rescue their leader, who is being held hundreds of kilometers away in El Altiplano, the maximum security prison from which his father escaped in 2015. a year later he was recaptured and sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States.
Uniformed officers on Friday removed dozens of stolen and torched cars across the city – of 800,000 inhabitants -, in whose streets fierce battles were fought on Thursday that reached the international airport. The airport remained closed until Friday when the reopening was announced, while the inhabitants cautiously tried to resume their activities after the day of terror.
Rubén Rocha, governor of Sinaloa, whose capital is Culiacán, gave a calm report. “Now we can relax a bit, do priority activities,” he said. In some points, however, traffic continued to be interrupted by vehicles reduced to ashes, but no new clashes or blockages were recorded.
The operation to arrest Guzmán, 32, left 10 soldiers and 19 criminal suspects dead, Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval said on Friday. Among the dead soldiers is a colonel, while 35 other soldiers were wounded by bullets and 21 gunmen were arrested, the official added.
The United States requests his extradition
Washington, which is seeking the extradition of Guzmán, accused of leading the meth trade, welcomed the capture on Friday. “We will continue to work to see what we can do together to try and stem that flow,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, referring to the smuggling of fentanyl, a drug 50 times more potent than heroin and responsible for numerous overdose deaths in the United States.
But Guzmán, with several pending accounts in Mexico, was granted a judicial stay against immediate extradition to that country. The Mexican government has made it clear that the US request will follow its regular course.
Some of the most dramatic scenes after the capture took place at the Culiacán airport, where a commercial plane was hit by a shell moments before takeoff and the passengers had to throw themselves to the ground for safety. Two Air Force planes were also hit and had to make emergency landings, Sandoval said.
Guzmán’s capture took place in view of the visit of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, who will arrive in Mexico this Sunday to meet his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, on Monday, and to participate in the America Summit on Tuesday from the North.
The Mexican government denied that the arrest was to curry favor with Biden and stressed that Washington did not participate in the operation, which offered a five million dollar reward for the “El Ratón” alias.
“We act autonomously, independently, there is cooperation and will continue to be there, but we make decisions as a sovereign government,” the leftist president said on Friday. After the arrest, only one picture of Guzmán was seen, showing him with a beard as he boards the helicopter that has taken him to prison. Mexican law prohibits the public exposure of defendants.
The leader of the “Chapitos”, as the heirs of “Chapo” Guzmán are known, had already been arrested on October 17, 2019 in Culiacán, but was released by order of López Obrador in the midst of an uprising by the criminal organization. The president then defended his decision, saying that a bloodbath was avoided when the military contingents were surrounded by civilians with long guns.
López Obrador stressed that this time it was “completely different”, since the operation was carried out in the suburbs and not in the heart of Culiacán so as not to put the population at risk. Founded four decades ago by El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel is considered by the US anti-drug agency DEA to be primarily responsible for trafficking fentanyl.