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Some Notes on the Arrest of Ovidio Guzmán López

Ovidio Guzman Lopez is detained in Culiacán, Mexico, on Oct. 17, 2019. - CEPROPIE via AP file

In what context did the capture of Ovidio Guzmán take place?

The details and implications of the operation and arrest of Ovidio Guzmán López have not yet been fully detailed.

A quick reading of the situation, and its context, allows us to outline some first approximations:

The first relevant point has to do with the upcoming visit of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, to Mexico and his strong influence on the issues on the agenda to be discussed within the framework of the X Summit of North American Leaders, together with the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and the President of Mexico.

Although the official Mexican discourse may go in the opposite direction, political times reveal that the demand by the United States to take more energetic action against the groups that move drugs into its territory has had an impact.

It will be necessary to monitor the crimes charged against Guzmán, his possible extradition, and the actions to contain the violence. It is foreseeable that an attempt will be made to avoid a scenario similar to that of 2019, since the first time he was released to “contain the violence.”

Yesterday, the White House pointed out that the fight against fentanyl is one of three central issues on Biden's agenda in Mexico, along with migration and the economy.

US President Joe Biden (L) is welcomed by his Mexican counterpart Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador upon landing at Felipe Angeles International Airport in Zumpango de Ocampo, north of Mexico City on January 8, 2023. © CLAUDIO CRUZ, AFP via Getty Images

Mexico accepted the return of 30,000 undocumented migrants per month, and the disputes within the framework of the T-MEC have not led to the installation of the dispute panel. At the same time, in the case of security, there were few results to offer from the Mexican side.

However, this detention may represent an advantage for the Mexican government when negotiating in the tri-national meeting, either to negotiate issues in the same sphere, for example, the transfer of arms, or in different areas, such as reducing commercial demands.

The role of the United States and its security agencies in this arrest is relevant. Some leaks from Mexican sources to the media suggested that US intelligence had provided information to locate the target. However, it could also be due to the monitoring of the Mexican military institution.

This detention could be considered as a "courtesy" and, in a certain way, a way of smoothing out rough edges and having a better position for the tri-national event.

The operation, led by the Mexican Army and supported by elements of the Secretary of the Navy and the National Guard, seeks to strengthen citizen confidence in the military institution after the "ghost" of the failed operation in October 2019, in which Guzmán López was arrested and released for the first time, by orders of the president.

We will have to see the response of the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) to this.

The city of Culiacán, the state of Sinaloa, and other border entities where there is a strong presence of the CDS -including CDMX- could be the target of attacks and outbreaks of violence in the coming days.

Additional actions by the criminal group to modify the government's determinations should not be ruled out, among other roadblocks, vehicle theft, attacks on businesses, and attacks against authorities and strategic facilities. An Aero Mexico aircraft even had to cancel its flight due to being shot by alleged members of the CDS.

In a broader panorama, the violent acts and subsequent escape of members of the Mexicles from the Chihuahua prison, who serve as the armed wing of the CDS in that state, should not be left aside, and who could reinforce their positions in the face of the advance of the Jalisco Cartel. New Generation (CJNG).

This arrest could generate a brief instability within the CDS, focusing actions and attention on the response to the arrest. The CJNG could use it to try to take territories under CDS control.

The government must take care of what is next. In the first instance, it must guarantee peace and control outbreaks of violence, mainly in Sinaloa -but without neglecting other relevant entities-. Likewise, it must seek balance and combat criminal structures contrary to the "Los Chapitos" group. If this is not done, a strengthening of antagonistic groups is possible.

The interpretations and possible effects of this arrest remain to be seen.

Recommendations for companies with operations in risk areas:

  • Do not lose sight of the fact that there is a high probability of acts of violence in the following days. Sinaloa and Mexico City are especially relevant points, but displacements of armed men have also been reported in Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Colima.

  • Avoid trips that are not strictly necessary to high-risk areas, especially for high-profile commanders.

  • We do not recommend road trips in risk areas in the coming days.

  • Reduce the movement of cargo vehicles to the minimum necessary, this type of transport is a high-value target for blockades.

  • Make sure to activate a security and follow-up protocol if it is unavoidable to postpone trips.

  • Request security overviews of the departure and arrival point before authorizing trips and transferring personnel and materials.

  • Keep in mind that the border points will have a high level of risk in the coming days if the CDS decides to increase the bet to avoid a transfer of Guzmán López.

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