The apprehension of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s son Ovidio Guzmán López led to a deadly battle between the Mexican government and the Sinaloa cartel on Thursday. The Mexican government decided to release Guzman López shortly after his arrest in order to restore peace.
Melissa del Bosque is a Mexico-based investigative reporter for ProPublica and the author of “Bloodlines,” a book about how Mexican cartels launder their money in Texas. She says there’s been a power struggle between the cartels and the Mexican government for a long time.
“For years now, there have been parts of the country in Mexico that have been under the control of the cartels,” del Bosque says.
Even with El Chapo in jail in America, the Sinaloa cartel, which he ran, still controls territory in Mexico, including in Sinaloa State on Mexico’s west coast. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned in 2018 on the promise of cracking down on cartels. But after the government captured Guzmán López, the Sinaloa cartel responded with violence in the streets.
“When the army and the national guard detained El Chapo’s son, the Sinaloa cartel basically shut down the entire capital of Sinaloa and released prisoners in jail just to show who’s in control,” del Bosque says.
Many in the press criticized López Obrador’s decision to release Guzmán López, but del Bosque says the president was trying to avoid further violence. Similar clashes between the cartel and past administrations have left thousands dead.
“Mexicans are very pragmatic,” del Bosque says. “They know these deep-rooted problems that he’s trying to change – like this power struggle with the cartels controlling so much of the territory – are going to take a long time to solve.”
Del Bosque says it’s unclear how the public feels about how López Obrador handled the situation. But, she says, “I think people are still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Written by Libby Cohen.