He had reason to be cocksure. In response to his capture in an upscale neighborhood, hundreds of heavily-armed Sinaloa Cartel henchmen, guns blazing, were pouring into Culiacan, briefly taking the modern city of about a million people near Mexico’s Pacific coast hostage.
Within hours they had pried him loose from authorities.
It was like nothing Mexico had seen before, a military-style operation that outfoxed and outnumbered security forces, leaving the city shocked and smoldering. The show of strength dashed hopes the cartel was seriously weakened by the life sentence the elder Guzman received in the United States this year.
Not only were the new generation of Guzmans, collectively known as Los Chapitos, keeping alive their family’s near-mythical outlaw reputation, they were doing it with a brazenness akin to open warfare.
“We’re facing a new generation of organized crime that doesn’t respect civilians,” Cristobal Castaneda, head of Sinaloa state security, told Reuters after the attacks.
Four surviving sons of El Chapo were already regulars in Culiacan’s nightclubs and restaurants, despite U.S. indictments against them, before last Thursday’s dramatic act of armed insurrection.
A concrete monument in the parking lot of a Culiacan supermarket marks the spot where a fifth son was gunned down in 2008.
None of the four are older than their mid-thirties. They have already survived kidnappings, arrest attempts and cartel infighting to establish themselves as the city’s most prominent traffickers, with the support of cartel elders.
Thursday’s attacks showed they were capable of taking on the Mexican army, state police and National Guard. Using a mixture of firepower, speed, discipline and the underlying threat of mass civilian deaths, they won.
Castaneda pointed to how over several hours gunmen stormed into businesses and sprayed police with bullets in crowded areas, on a scale unprecedented in the country’s long-running drug war. Remarkably, the government says just 13 people were killed, including a soldier and several cartel gunmen.
Finally, a humbled Mexican government was forced to order Ovidio’s release, opting against a bloodier confrontation that officials later said could have claimed hundreds of lives.
For many, Ovidio’s newfound celebrity elevated him, along with his brothers, to the status of Sinaloa Cartel heavyweights, with Ovidio’s exploits placing just him a few notches below his father in the pantheon of bandits who outsmarted the government.
A so-called narcocorrido – a style of song about the drug trade set to upbeat tuba and accordion rhythms – was released by Sunday, lionizing Ovidio as a “beast” and proclaiming that “the government was mistaken/they don’t know who they messed with.”
Despite the high profile antics, it is unclear exactly how much influence the Guzmans have over the cartel their father helped found decades ago, however.
Los Chapitos control drug sales in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa, including a growingtrade in methamphetamine, according to one official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this year, a fentanyl laboratory was found in the city, suggesting that the Guzmans also have their eye on the lucrative U.S. opiate business.
But the cartel’s bigger interests are still believed to be handled by El Chapo’s former partner, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a discrete capo in his early 70s who has never been arrested.
The businesses Zambada handles move billions of dollars, U.S. authorities say, and are diversified across many sectors in dozens of countries, including even niche markets like wildlife and timber smuggling.
Edgardo Buscaglia, an organized crime expert at Columbia University, agrees that Zambada probably still controls the cartel. He described the new generation as more reckless, but certainly not as powerful.
In recent years, the relationship between the family and Zambada has been fraught, with his son testifying against El Chapo at his U.S. trial. In turn, the defense argued Zambada was the real head of the cartel, not El Chapo.
However, Zambada, who is said to be Ovidio’s godfather, apparently supported the assault to release him. A statement issued on Tuesday under the cartel’s C.D.S insignia was intended as a show of unity between the factions, Buscaglia said.
In one crackly recording circulating online, purportedly of internal Sinaloa Cartel radio communications on Thursday, a supposed gunman celebrates that Zambada was supporting the battle to release Ovidio.
Thursday’s antics showed Ovidio commanded sufficient loyalty in the organization for fighters to risk their lives to save him, Buscaglia said. And despite the cartel’s head-on fight with the state to release him, he predicted Los Chapitos were smart enough avoid sustained confrontation with security forces.
“They know they would lose in the long term,” he said.
Up until last week, Ivan Archivaldo, estimated to be 35, and Jesus Alfredo were El Chapo’s better-known sons. Locals say both could be spotted in the city’s trendy nightclubs and restaurants clustered around Culiacan’s upscale Tres Rios neighborhood, where Ovidio was briefly detained by a force of about 35 soldiers.
Far from hiding in safehouses, they and their friends are known to enjoy tearing through Culiacan’s nearby hills in souped-up all terrain vehicles, two people said. Two dealerships that sell high-end models are located in the city.
“Yeah, a lot of people here know who they are and see them out and about,” said a young clerk at a clothing shop, asking that her name not be used for fear of reprisals.
In 2017, Ivan Archivaldo and Jesus Alfredo were believed to be behind an attack on then-rival Damaso Lopez, a high-level Sinaloa Cartel leader once rumored to be El Chapo’s successor, in the dusty town of Villa Juarez just outside Culiacan.
“It was crazy. The shootout lasted more than two hours. Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta,” said a local witness, mimicking the sound of gunfire and pointing to where bullet holes remain visible. Two people died, including a pregnant woman.
More than a decade ago, Ivan Archivaldo was arrested and jailed, but he was released in 2008 due to what a judge called a lack of evidence. That same year, El Chapo’s eldest son, Edgar Guzman, was gunned down in a supermarket parking lot in Culiacan, the spot now marked by a stone cross.
Following the footsteps of El Chapo, who staged two spectacular prison breaks and eluded capture multiple times, Ivan Archivaldo dodged an imminent arrest in 2014 by dressing as a waiter and fleeing through the kitchen of a high-end seafood restaurant in Culiacan, government sources told Mexico’s Milenio newspaper.
“It will always be like this,” Ivan Archivaldo said in an interview published last year in Belgian magazine Knack, when asked if there was a war between the cartel and the state.
“It is the government’s job to fight us, by mandate, they have to fight drug cartels,” he said, adding: “There’s a lot of people who protect me and my family.”
I personally think this whole incident is the beginning of the end for Chapitos but definately not CDS its evident they are going no where CDS has culican on lock
Some of the best reporting I have seen from the incident, thanks for posting.
Well known that they frequent Culiacan clubs and mariscos/food spots, which will probably change in the short term, at least.
This post was updated on .
I can’t seem to figure out why the media depicts ovidio as the one behind the chaos if he was the one detained. It was Ivan behind the madness shortly after being released he started threatening the soldiers to release his brother. He threatened to heat up all the states if he wasn’t released. He’s the one that mobilized the men to rescue his younger brother. Ovidio was merely a leverage for the soldiers seeing as how he was the only thing that kept them alive.
The pictures of him released were actually sent to Ivan and his people to prove ovidio was alive therefore they could negotiate his release.
The cds sicarios also went over to restaurants, stores, and Centros to warn civilians that massive shootings would occur and to stay in doors.
What the media fails to report is the fact that culiacan is a narco city and has been for decades. The narco is so embedded into the way of life that it is part of the culture. Everyone in that city has a friend or relative part of organized crime which is why the majority support them. In order for one to understand this you have to be from culiacan or any narco city for that matter.
The government can arrest all the capos from culiacan but within time they will realize that nothing changed just like mayo said in his interview. It’s sad but it is the truth. The government has accepted it and they know the best thing they can do is sit with the narco and keep him under control as they have always done. It’s just never said.
The only civilians that were touched were the families of the soldiers in order to have leverage over them
Mayo sure knows how to keep the heat off himself. Chapitos are now enemy #1 of the state. Sure they are not as big as Mencho, Mayo, and RCQ, but they sure do have the most heat now.
Only locals, groupies, cartel newsreaders, and the government even knew who Ovidio was until that day. We had an old photo of him in a Cowboy hat probably 10 years ago at best until now. I feel kind of bad for the guy, he was just living a good life as a junior cartel leader under Mayo and now he is known as the mastermind of the attack.
There are some hardcore company men in the military who have choose plomo many years ago who are out for revenge. He went from unknown to enemy 1 in 24 hours.
You feel bad for the "junior cartel leader living the good life"? Really?
Im sorry but he chose this life. Not sure why you say that 🤔
I am being completely sarcastic. I am a cheerleader for the people of Mexico, not the cartels. I look forward to the day that all of these people receive punishment.
This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by North
He’s the son of chapo. Even if he didn’t want that life he would have been dragged into it regardless just for the simple fact that he’s chapos son. His older brother was neutral and he still ended up killed by rivals. Goes to show that you don’t have an option when you are the son of a heavy hitter. Your rivals won’t respect your choices.
It’s quite easy to judge these kids when you aren’t in their position or in their shoes.
Serafin stated the same in his trial. The kid was going to get killed when he was baby and in his later years as well when he was neutral again by the simple fact of who his father was. You can’t say it was his fault. He never chose to be born in that particular family.
It comes across as ignorant when one assumes you have an option when you’re born in a family like that.
I’m not looking to justify his actions or his choices but I believe in order for someone to be judged one has to look at both sides of the coin.
I learn something new every day. If you're the offspring of a cartel boss, it's impossible to do anything but be a captain in the cartel.
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