Culiacán Fears Safety After Thursday's Armed Uprising
By Frank Rojas 10/21/19
Thursday’s shootout between military officials and drug cartel gunmen left the Mexican city of Culiacán, Sinaloa in destructive chaos. Images and video footage captured by citizens circulated on social media as the events unfolded.
Videos were shared of cartel gunmen with machine guns mounted on the back of trucks, shooting in the middle of the streets, cars burned down with windows smashed and barricading the Mexican army. Citizen response to the warfare shows people running in the middle of a shopping mall, others are rushing for safety as shots are fired in the middle of the street. One video shared through Twitter shows people hiding in the middle of an aisle of what is believed to be a supermarket as shots can be heard being fired outside.
The violence came in response to the arrest and capture of Ovidio Guzman who is the 28-year-old son of convicted king-pin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman earlier that day. Ovidio was charged in February of this year for trafficking cocaine, marijuana, and meth. But after the uprising cartel's gun battle in the streets of Sinaloa’s capital, Mexico’s federal government prompted soldiers to release Guzman.
Culiacán is not new to run in dangers with cartel members as the Sinaloa Cartel has been in power for years. This is the first time the cartel has taken immediate action since the ongoing Mexican Drug War.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a press conference on Friday in response to the uprising.
“You can’t fight fire with fire. That’s the difference between our strategy versus what previous administrations have done. We don’t want deaths, we don’t want war. This is hard for many people to understand, but the strategy that was used by previous administrations turned the country into a cemetery, and we don’t want that anymore.”
Many have been divided on López Obrador’s handling of the situation. Some feel him and his administration’s strategy of releasing Ovidio Guzman is a sign of retreat to the cartel army, while others find it as the safest decision to end the warzone that Culiacán soon became on Thursday. Regardless, the government and army was not ready for the intense gun battle with cartel gunmen and underestimated their capabilities.
Culiacán became a ghost town that following Friday with many citizens staying inside their homes for safety. Schools, businesses, and government buildings were closed for the day and the streets were empty. Many took to social media to report their safety after Thursday's scare.
J (18) was preparing to meet up with some friends at the Forum Culiacán, a shopping mall where the shoot-out initially took place.
“I was home when my friends invited me to go to the mall. Then I heard gunshots outside. I checked Twitter and Facebook and saw that everyone was posting pictures and videos about the gun battle… I heard more explosions and could see smoke coming from cars.”
The cartel was armed with stolen military weapons and guns mostly taken from the United States. According to a Times statement, more than 150,000 firearms seized in Mexico were traced to U.S. gun shops and factories between 2007 and 2018.
At Friday's press conference Mexican federal security officials reported that eight people were killed in the gun battles on Thursday. Those killed include one civilian, one member of the National Guard, one prisoner and five attackers.