MEXICO CITY – A video released on Wednesday by the Mexican government shows a son of jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman ordering his men to stop shooting during an Oct. 17 clash with security forces who were trying to arrest him.
“I already surrendered. Everybody stop, please,” Ovidio Guzman is heard to say into a cell phone while in the custody of army and National Guard personnel in Culiacan, capital of the western state of Sinaloa.
“Tell them to withdraw, I don’t want disasters. I don’t want a disaster, please,” Ovidio says in a call to one of his brothers.
His pleas were ignored and the city spent hours under siege by Sinaloa cartel gunmen, prompting the federal security Cabinet in Mexico City to order Ovidio freed in a bid to prevent civilian deaths.
Ovidio’s father, El Chapo, long led the Sinaloa cartel and is now serving a life sentence in the US on multiple drug trafficking and murder charges.
The video presented Wednesday shows Ovidio Guzman walking toward members of the security forces with his hands on his head and then being placed up against a wall.
An obviously agitated woman accompanying Guzman asks the soldiers and guardsmen what’s going on and they reassure her that they are members of security forces and not gunmen from a rival cartel.
The troops then allow Ovidio to make the call to his brother.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was first informed about the situation in Culiacan 30 minutes after the events of the video, according to Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval.
Within an hour of Ovidio Guzman’s arrest, reports came of trucks full of armed men surrounding the home in Culiacan where the operation was carried out.
Other groups of gunmen surrounded three military bases in Sinaloa, preventing the personnel from coming to the aid of their comrades in Culiacan.
In confrontations with security forces, Mexico’s criminal outfits often resort to commandeering trucks and buses to block streets and highways.
“We can’t put a higher price on a criminal’s capture than people’s lives,” Lopez Obrador said the day after Ovidio Guzman’s release, defending the decision of his security Cabinet.
“We don’t want deaths. We don’t want war. It’s hard to understand, but the strategy that was being applied previously turned the country into a cemetery,” he said of the 2006-2012 administration of Felipe Calderon and the 2012-2018 tenure of Enrique Peńa Nieto, a 12-year period in which the drug war is estimated to have left more than 250,000 dead and more than 40,000 missing.
The secretary of Security and Civilian Protection, Alfonso Durazo, reiterated Wednesday that the army and National Guard commando who tried to nab Ovidio Guzman acted “precipitously,” without sufficient regard for the possible threat to public safety.
“We decided not to continue with the right-wing idea of the war against the narco(-trafficking). That belligerent strategy not only brought violence ... it also transformed the very institutions of security into protagonists of that violence, as could have happened in Culiacan,” he said.