29 Killed So Far In Cartel Conflict Ahead of Biden’s Visit to Mexico

A pitched battle took place Thursday in Culiacán, capitol of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, as the Sinaloa Cartel battled the Mexican military after they successfully captured the son of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

Most commentators observed that this appeared to be a token goodwill gesture before President Biden’s planned visit to the border and Mexico next week. This will be Biden’s first visit to the border of this presidency and the first visit to Mexico by a U.S. president in 10 years.

The AP quoted Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, as saying, “Mexico wants to do at least the bare minimum in terms of counter-drug efforts. I don’t think that this is a sign that there’s going to be closer cooperation, bilateral collaboration, if you will, between the United States and Mexico.”

Guzman in handcuffs with American police outside a plane
“El Chapo” in U.S. custody after being extradited in 2017 (ICE photo)

This was not the first successful operation to capture Ovidio “El Ratón” Guzmán; Mexican authorities had previously captured him in October 2019 in what came to be known as “Black Thursday” or Culiacanazo (a portmanteau of Culiacán and a slang word for “prison sentence”).

The cartel’s violent response – which, as of Thursday, will have to be called the First Battle of Culiacán – led to Mexican President Manuel López Obrador’s humiliating surrender within hours to the cartel’s ultimatum that they would brutalize the local population if Guzmán were not released.

Obrador won the Mexican presidency in 2018 on a platform of “hugs, not bullets” and, since taking office, has cut down on anti-drug cooperation with the United States and largely dismantled enforcement of the drug war – especially against the Sinaloa Cartel. This trend accelerated after Biden took office in 2021.

Videos of Thurdsay’s carnage, which featured Black Hawk helicopters firing into residential neighborhoods, cartel child soldiers gearing up for war and commercial air passengers taking cover as their planes were peppered with sicario gunfire, went viral as the battle raged. The popular drug war blog Borderland Beat provided live updates of translated Mexican news.

According to Avia.Pro, a military news site based in Russia, the cartel once again gave the Mexican government an ultimatum to either suspend the extradition of Guzmán to the U.S. or watch the city burn.

Avia.Pro also relayed that a Mexican court had suspended extradition of Guzmán, but that appears to be a misunderstanding.

According to Mexican newspaper El Universal, the United States has 60 days to file a renewed extradition request and the situation in Culiacán had stabilized by Friday as 3,500 members of the Mexican Army, National Guard and Marines occupied the city.

The Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, clarified in an announcement that Guzmán had been arrested on a Mexican warrant – not the U.S. extradition request – and, as such, the domestic criminal case will proceed as they await a formal response from the U.S.

This news and commentary by A.J.Cooke originally appeared on Valiant News.


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