Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez is defending the decision of Mexican law enforcement to release the son of the drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman after a gun battle in the streets over his custody, according to BBC News.
The firefight began after police seized Ovidio Guzmán López in Culiacán after receiving a warrant from a judge.
Ovidio Guzmán is wanted on drug trafficking charges in the U.S., and since his father’s arrest earlier this year, he and his brothers Ivan and Alfredo reportedly help run the day-to-day operations of the drug empire, according to the BBC.
Cartel members didn’t take kindly to the warrant and immediately opened fire on the officers, turning the routine arrest into a battle in the streets with military-grade weapons.
Police officers found Guzmán but were quickly surrounded and forced to retreat.
The Los Angeles Times reported that at least eight people were killed and another 21 were injured during the incident.
Midway through the fight, security officials decided it was best to abandon the operation and let Guzmán go free.
“Thank God, Ovidio has appeared,” lawyer José Luis Gonzalez Meza said, according to The Wall Street Journal. “He is free.”
Witnesses said there was a major sense of panic in the streets of Culiacán during the altercation, with families running for their lives.
While he was in custody, police took a mugshot of Guzmán.
Ovidio Guzmán Lopez released. From a PR standpoint alone, this was a total disaster – the slow drip of info, the photos of Guzmán in custody, the government statement… just terrifying how badly authorities handled it pic.twitter.com/syJwtPQHGy
— Stephen Woodman (@Stephentwoodman) October 18, 2019
Lopez praised the officers’ decision in a news conference saying, “The officials who took this decision did well.”
Criticisms of the operation were coming in from within the Mexican government. Defence Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said it had been “badly planned,” according to the BBC.
Oddly enough, Lopez was elected in part because of his strict, zero-tolerance policy toward the drug cartels.
Since becoming president, he has tasked the National Guard with handling such high-profile drug trafficking cases.
Officials say that under El Chapo’s leadership, the Sinaloa cartel was the largest supplier of illegal substances to the U.S.
El Chapo is currently serving life imprisonment for drug trafficking with kidnapping, murder, homicide, money laundering and many other charges.
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