A former official with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims that Mexican government has released misleading information about the events in Culiacán, Sinaloa, last week, asserting that security forces arrested and freed not one but two sons of convicted drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the DEA, said in an interview with the news agency Bloomberg that the government has not revealed that while attempting to capture Ovidio Guzmán López last Thursday, security forces arrested Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar.
Citing unverified intelligence he said he received from high-ranking Mexican police sources, Vigil said that Guzmán Salazar, like his half-brother, was released after Sinaloa Cartel gunmen overpowered security forces.
The gunmen carried out a wave of attacks across Culiacán that terrorized residents of the northern city.
The New York Times, citing sources who asked not to be identified, originally reported that the 36-year-old Guzmán Salazar was arrested and released.
“There are so many factors that point to the fact that he was there and they also released him,” Vigil said. “But they’ll never admit to it because they’ve been lying from the get go.”
Bloomberg said the former DEA official declined to reveal the sources behind his assertions, which it couldn’t independently verify.
Vigil also claimed that authorities have misled the public by playing down the amount of planning that went into the targeted operation in Culiacán.
President López Obrador said on Wednesday that he had no information about whether Guzmán Salazar was arrested and released.
The president’s press office strongly denied Vigil’s claims that the government has misled the public about the failed operation.
Information chief Jesús Cantú said that there has been “an unusual amount of transparency, not only for Mexico but by international standards.”
He claimed that the security cabinet, which took the decision to release Guzmán López, was explaining “every detail” about last week’s events, adding that the president himself said he would testify before authorities if they considered he’d done something illegal.
The government came under fire last week for not providing details about the events in Culiacán until several hours after the violence started. It was also criticized for being deliberately ambiguous about what happened and for changing its story.
Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo said on Thursday night that Guzmán López was arrested by the army and National Guard during a routine patrol in the Tres Ríos neighborhood of Culiacán.
After armed criminals surrounded the house in which the suspected narco was arrested, Durazo said the security cabinet “agreed to suspend the actions” to protect the safety of Culiacán residents. But he didn’t clarify whether Guzmán López remained in custody.
Later the same night, he told the news agency Reuters that the suspect had been released.
Security officials revealed on Friday that the arrest was in fact part of a targeted operation, triggering accusations that Durazo had lied.
More recently, officials indicated that the arrest was approved by low-level law enforcement officials and that federal cabinet secretaries may have not known about it.
López Obrador, who has repeatedly defended the decision to release the suspected Sinaloa Cartel leader, revealed on Tuesday that he wasn’t told about the operation to capture him.
He also raised doubts about whether National Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval was aware of the plan.
“I think the defense ministry had knowledge of it. The minister? I don’t know. I think so,” López Obrador said.
He confirmed that there was an extradition order for the alleged drug trafficker and presidential spokesman Jesús Ramírez told Bloomberg that the operation to arrest Guzmán López was carried out upon request by the DEA. United States authorities didn’t respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment.
However, Vigil questioned why the United States would target Guzmán López for extradition when El Chapo’s other sons are more active in the Sinaloa Cartel.
“Jesús Alfredo and Iván Archivaldo are much more important than Ovidio,” he said. “Mexico from the very beginning began distorting the truth in order to buy time so they could come up with a plausible deniability story.”
Source: Bloomberg (en)