CEPROPY via AP File
MEXICO CITY — Mexico on Friday extradited Ovidio Guzmán López, son of former Sinaloa cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, to the United States to face charges of drug trafficking, money laundering and other charges, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“This action is the latest step in the Justice Department’s efforts to attack all aspects of the cartel’s operations,” Garland said.
The Mexican government did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Mexican security forces captured Guzmán López, aka “the mouse,” in January in Culiacan, capital of the cartel’s namesake state of Sinaloa.
Three years earlier, the government attempted to capture him, but failed after his cartel allies unleashed a wave of violence in Culiacan.
The January arrest sparked similar violence that killed 30 people in Culiacan, including 10 military personnel. The military used Black Hawk gunships against the cartel’s truck-mounted .50-caliber machine guns. Cartel gunmen hit two military planes, forcing them to land, and sent gunmen to the city’s airport where military and civilian planes were hit by gunfire.
This capture came just days before US President Joe Biden is due to visit Mexico for bilateral talks followed by the North American Leaders Summit.
On Friday, Garland paid tribute to law enforcement and military personnel who have given their lives in the United States and Mexico. “The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable those who fueled the opioid epidemic that has devastated too many communities across the country.”
Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said he believes the Mexican government has made extradition easier because for someone as well-known as Guzmán López, it typically takes at least two years to obtain extradition. extradition, because lawyers file numerous complaints to delay extradition. tactical.
“This happened more quickly than usual,” Vigil said, noting that some conservative members of the U.S. Congress had raised the idea of U.S. military intervention if Mexico did not do more to stop the flow of drugs. . Vigil dismissed the idea as “political theater” but suggested it added additional pressure on Mexico to act.
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement that the extradition “reflects the importance of ongoing cooperation between the U.S. and Mexican governments in the fight against narcotics and other vital challenges , and we thank our Mexican counterparts for their partnership in the fight against narcotics and other vital challenges. our people against violent criminals.
Sherwood-Randall has made several visits to Mexico this year to meet with President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, most recently last month.
In April, U.S. prosecutors unsealed numerous indictments against Guzmán and his brothers, known collectively as the “Chapitos.” They detailed how, after their father’s extradition and life sentence in the United States, the brothers steered the cartel increasingly toward synthetic drugs like methamphetamine and the powerful synthetic opioid, fentanyl. .
The indictment unsealed in Manhattan said their goal was to produce huge quantities of fentanyl and sell it at the lowest price. Fentanyl is so cheap to make that the cartel reaps huge profits, even selling the drug in bulk for 50 cents a pill, prosecutors said. The brothers denied the allegations in a letter.
The Chapitos became known for their grotesque violence that seemed to exceed any notion of restraint shown by previous generations of cartel leaders.
Vigil described Guzmán López as a middle leader of the cartel and not even the leader of the brothers.
“It’s a symbolic victory but it will have no impact on the Sinaloa cartel,” he said. “It will continue to operate, it will continue to send drugs to the United States, especially being the largest producer of fentanyl.”
Fentanyl has become a top priority in bilateral security relations. But López Obrador has described his country as a transit point for precursors from China to the United States, despite claims by the U.S. government and his own military about fentanyl production in Mexico.
López Obrador attributes the deterioration of family values in the United States to high levels of drug abuse there.
An estimated 109,680 overdose deaths occurred last year in the United States, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 75,000 of them were linked to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.
Cheap fentanyl is increasingly being used in other drugs, often without buyers’ knowledge.
Fentanyl seizures in Mexico typically occur when the drug has already been processed into pills and is heading toward the U.S. border.
U.S. prosecutors say much of the production takes place in and around Culiacan, where the Sinaloa cartel has near-total control.