SINALOA, MEXICO – Gunfire erupted in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Thursday after the Mexican government arrested Ovidio Guzmán-López, the son of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán but many Saskatchewan residents in Mexico say they feel safe.
Thirty-two-year-old Ovidio Guzman-López - who allegedly leads one of the world’s largest and most dangerous cartels - was flown to Mexico City following his arrest Jan. 5 in Sinaloa's capital of Culiacán Rosales. The arrest prompted the Canadian government to urge Canadians in Mexico’s Sinaloa state to limit their movements and shelter in place.
Martensville resident Eleanore Neale, however, told SASKTODAY.ca on Saturday that things were “good” in Mazatlán. She spends about three months a year in Mexico.
“I am sure it will stay that way as the cartel needs Mazatlán tourism as they have a lot invested.”
Neale said they just stayed indoors for not quite a full day.
“No one [was] out so nothing to hear other than helicopters, which they are quite constant on ordinary days," said Neale.
Regina residents Marion and James Kee said everything “inside the city is all good” and back to normal in Mazatlán after one quiet day from the brief lock down.
“We saw a couple military helicopters,” Marion Kee told SASKTODAY.ca. “Never heard anything. We stayed in on Thursday morning for a bit but then went to the golden zone as we can walk over from our house. It was very quiet on the streets. Very few vendors open at all. The bar we went to closed as well so we went home after. But nothing happened in the city that we are aware of.”
She said they only heard about everything after a friend in Mazatlán called them early Thursday morning and told them “something was going down” and they need to stay inside.
“We were not scared,” she added. “A little worried maybe but not ever scared.”
Moose Jaw residents arrive in Mexico day prior
Moose Jaw residents Jennifer and James Patterson told SASKTODAY.ca that they arrived in Mazatlán the day before Guzmán-López’s arrest and only heard about it after a friend in Saskatchewan called and told them things were shut down.
“We thought he was messing with us so we went and had lunch that day.
“We were not afraid and yesterday the buses were back running and everything was opened [was finally able to get groceries for our condo] all the bars had bands last night and everywhere was busy.
“People are not afraid because we don’t have access to the media; only what I hear on the Mazatlán Facebook page,” she added.
Patterson said most people on vacation in Mexico put their cell phones away and don’t have Internet when they are off their resorts.
She said she spoke with Albertans at a table beside them and they hadn’t heard anything either.
After lunch they went to the beach but said it was too busy so they went and visited family for the day and hung out at the pool.
“Then we realized things were more serious than we were aware,” she said.
“We saw helicopters patrolling the area and when we were walking in the evening there was more police presence and police trucks with men wearing all black standing in the back of the moving trucks.”
Patterson said she was told that about 17 kilometres outside of Mazatlán a soda truck and a car were on fire and the police had blocked the highway.
Estevan resident says 'things are normal'
Estevan resident Reg Stephen, who has spent winters in Mazatlán for 23 years and is married to Veronica Osuna Lejarza, said they weren’t afraid and didn’t notice any violence in Mazatlán.
“I would like to clarify that there has been no gun violence or blockades within the City of Mazatlán contrary to other media posts,” he told SASKTODAY.ca Saturday.
“We were out last night for dinner as we do every Friday. I walk on the boardwalk every morning and haven’t missed a day in spite of the events that took place in Culiacán.
“We spent the afternoon in our house in a local Mexican neighbourhood, which is not in the tourist areas. Things here were normal with the exception of less traffic.”
Stephen said businesses were shutdown because public transit was stopped and workers had no way to and from work.
“In Culiacán the cartel was using buses to blockade the streets so Mazatlán stopped the buses as a precaution."
Mexico safe as anywhere else
Lori and Dave Tudor have been living in Mexico six months a year and will be living there full-time after they sell their Alberta business and feel safe. They stay in the Marina in Sinaloa.
“We travel on Harley to many places,” Lori Tudor told SASKTODAY.ca. “It is as safe as anywhere else.”
She said they do take this serious but added that it’s part of life in Mexico and she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else besides home in Alberta with their kids.
Tudor has run a Facebook page in Mazatlán for years and is involved in the community. She said they have seen things shut down in the past.
“It’s mostly for safety and keep us home and to keep the streets empty and out of the way of the army doing their jobs.”
When Guzmán-López was arrested, Tudor said they didn’t go out and didn’t see anything.
“We went out the next morning and things seemed back to normal.”
Mexican woman warns Canadians
Keith and Val Joy from Sicamous, British Columbia, have been spending six months a year in Mazatlán for the past five years. They were grocery shopping in Mazatlán's central market when they noticed shops locking up.
They walked three to four blocks to catch a bus to the ferry that takes them to a nearby island where they stay and noticed buses weren’t running and hardly anyone outside. That’s when a Mexican woman told them they need to go home, explaining that El Chapo’s son had been arrested and the cartel may retaliate.
“We were standing there with our bags of groceries," said Keith Joy. "We thought ‘oh sh**’.”
They were able to flag a taxi to take them to catch a ferry back to the island. They spent the day in a lounge on the island and saw military helicopters flying above and a few military trucks. They said the day was quiet with no dancing or loud music from the Mariachi bands.
Mazatlán safe says mayor
On Friday, to show that the city was safe, Mazatlán Mayor Edgar González led dozens of Canadian and American tourists on a tour of the Historic Center.
“These same tourists who are practically established in Mazatlán are very confident, very calm, we see them in the historic center relaxed, calm, no problems, not worried, they are in the restaurants, in the streets, in the galleries, on the boardwalk, everywhere completely relaxed, calm.”
Julie Morgan Sharp, tourist Aide volunteer, described the walk and tour of different craft establishments, restaurants and galleries, as excellent.
“Today, we are out to show the confidence we have in Mazatlán, we feel safe,” said Sharp.
Cartel gives Mexican government ultimatum
The Sinaoloa cartel has given the Mexican government an ultimatum warning the president to release El Chapo’s son within 72 hours or they will start burning gas stations and government buildings across Mexico, reported the UK media.
The cartel fears El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán-López, will be extradited to the United States. The U.S. authorities had offered a $5-million reward for any information leading to his arrest. A federal judge in Mexico, however, has suspended the extradition process started against Guzmán-López.
Patterson acknowledges that things could escalate in Mexico when U.S. President Joe Biden arrives in Mexico. According to a tweet by Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, Biden arrives Sunday for a North American leaders' summit.
“But I would assume they would then target Mexico City,” she said.
Tudor thinks “some sh** is going to go down" eventually.
“That’s a given,” she said. “But when and where who knows.”
Tudor said they have concerns but it isn’t stopping them from being in Mexico. Besides, some areas of the United States aren’t always safe, she added.
“I hate driving through the U.S. Too much random sh** there.”
Tudor said she thinks the media “blew it out of proportion” about what’s happening in Mazatlán.
“No Airport burnt down. No big shoot out here and no one was barricaded in their hotels.”
Joy said they will be staying put on their island as a precaution and see what happens as the cartel’s 72-hour deadline approaches.
Guzmán-López a high-ranking member of Sinaloa Cartel
According to the U.S. Department of State, Ovidio Guzmán-López and his brother Joaquín allegedly have 11 methamphetamine labs in the state of Sinaloa producing an estimated 3,000 - 5,000 pounds of methamphetamine per month.
“The methamphetamine is sold wholesale to other Sinaloa members and to U.S.- and Canadian-based distributors,” said the U.S. Department of State.
“Other information indicates that Ovidio Guzmán-López has ordered the murders of informants, a drug trafficker, and a popular Mexican singer who had refused to sing at his wedding,” said the U.S. government.
“Ovidio Guzmán-López is a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel. Law enforcement investigations indicate Ovidio and his brother, Joaquín Guzmán-López, function in high-level command and control roles of their own drug trafficking organization, the Guzmán-López Transnational Criminal Organization, under the umbrella of the Sinaloa Cartel.”
Violence broke out in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, Jan. 5 after Ovidio Guzmán-López was arrested. The cartel retaliated, setting vehicles on fire and putting up roadblocks in Culiacán, say Mexican authorities.
The cartel also riddled a passenger plane with bullets in Culiacán Thursday morning. Mexican airline Aeromexico said no passengers or employees were struck when the fuselage of the plane was hit with bullets as it was about to take-off from Culiacán to Mexico City. Hundreds of flights were cancelled in the state of Sinaloa.
According to the Mexican government, at least 29 people, including 10 soldiers, were killed during the shootout between the military and cartel. Mexican Defence Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told reporters Friday that a further 35 military personnel were injured and 21 cartel members arrested.
Mexican President Andrés López Obrador said Mexican forces were able to keep civilians safe and no civilian deaths were reported.
The Mexican government say they are sending an additional 1,000 troops to Sinaloa to assist with security.
Ovidio Guzmán-López’s father, El Chapo, is serving a life sentence in the U. S. after he was found guilty of drug trafficking and money laundering in 2019.
— Click for more from Crime, Cops and Court.