The latest particulars of the Culiacán bloodshed
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador - Photo: Iván Stephens/EL UNIVERSAL

The latest particulars of the Culiacán bloodshed

Newsroom & Agencies
Mexico City
Noé Torres & David Alire García/REUTERS & Alexis Ortiz, Manuel Espino/EL UNIVERSAL
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On October 17, Mexican President López Obrador’s government was rocked when cartel gunmen laid siege to the city of Culiacán, forcing outmatched soldiers to release Ovidio Guzmán, a son of jailed drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán

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Mexican President López Obrador’s government was rocked two weeks ago when cartel gunmen laid siege to the city of Culiacán, forcing outmatched soldiers to release Ovidio Guzmán, a son of jailed drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán after he was briefly detained.

The incident marked the biggest challenge to the president’s security strategy to date and provoked wide-spread criticism of the military’s capitulation to Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel, which was ordered by López Obrador’s security cabinet.

Did you know El Chapo's son was arrested in Culiacán?

The decision to back down also attracted significant public support for avoiding a potentially bloodier confrontation, echoing the president’s reasoning.

Today, president Andrés Manuel López Obrador rectified that Coronel Juan José Verde Montes did not participate in the operation in Culiacán, Sinaloa to capture Ovidio Guzmán López, son of drug lord El Chapo Guzmán.

On Thursday, Coronel Verde’s name was mentioned after a journalist asked the President who had ordered the Culiacán operation; however, López Obrador said later that Verde Montes works in Mexico City and was not involved in the operation.

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López Obrador added that Verde is the head of the Analysis Group of Drug Trafficking Information (GAIN) and that media outlets and security experts misunderstood the information for Juan José Verde Montes was not active during the operation against Ovidio Guzmán.

The Mexican president added that the name of the person who actually coordinated the Culiacán operation will not be revealed for security's sake.

In addition, he said that given the case Coronel Juan José Verde Montes needs protection he will have it.

Have you heard the Security minister explained what happened in Culiacán?

For their part, security experts agreed that revealing the name of Verde Montes was a mistake from the federal government.

They considered that the National Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval and president López Obrador did not make themselves accountable and sacrificed Verde’s career to lessen the public impact of the failed operation.

“It’s unfortunate that they revealed his name because, in addition to ruining his military career, they are putting his life in real danger,” said César Gutiérrez Priego, an expert in military law.

Did you knmow there is video footage of Ovidio Guzmán's arrest in Culiacán?

He said that the head of the Defense Ministry (Sedena) should have made himself accountable for the operation but “sacrificed one of his soldiers and cop-out. This is unbelievable for me: I had never heard of a Sedena minister blaming his subalterns to save himself.”

Jorge Luis Sierra, an expert in Armed Forces, commented that “ it is not usual for Sedena to reveal the names of the heads of a military operation, especially after the experiences of murders against soldiers, officials, and military chiefs that have performed anti-drug operations.”

In regards to this situation leaving the Army unprotected, he said that “yes, usually the names of the members of units that perform high-impact operations are protected to prevent any consequence.”

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Official information details that GAIN started to gain force since 2006; before that date, only 19 persons worked there. The result of its operations has been the arrest of Santiago Mazari Hernández, known as “El Carrete,” alleged leader of “Los Rojos” cartel; Adrián Alonso Guerrero Covarrubias, “El 8,” alleged godson of “El Mencho,” and Eleno Madrigal Virrueta, “El 20,” alleged leader of Cartel Jalisco New Generation.

Javier Oliva Posada, a national security expert, commented that the federal government not only exposed Coronel Verde Montes but that it could also affect the Army in general and GAIN.

“The President made a mistake. He is not familiar with the Armed Forces; he doesn’t know the protocols, and he is the commander; he is forced to take care of the integrity of his subordinates. This could affect the morale of military members and affect GAIN’s operations and efficiency.”

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Other experts joined the criticism from social networks. Alejandro Hope, a security analyst, pointed out “If an Army or police official made a mistake, a fault or a crime, he deserves a punishment after a process according to the law. What he does not deserve is to be crucified and to be in danger for an unprecedented revelation in a morning news conference.”

Yesterday, Luis Cresencio Sandoval said Verde “is the responsible of this group [GAIN], he is the one who manages the different parts of the structure… He receives the information and moves the different military to develop the operations.”

He added that Verde is the head of GAIN and that in the military hierarchy he is under the deputy head of Intelligence of the General Staff.

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According to Luis Cresencio Sandoval, the group headed by Verde Montes was the one who took the decision to perform the operation against Ovidio Guzmán without warning its superiors.

The decision is taken by the group “in charge of watching the objective [Ovidio Guzmán]. They take the decision because it’s the time in which they can or think they can take the operation to a good end,” he added.

Sandoval also said that military authorities are investigating if military laws were broken during the operation.

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Cresencio Sandoval informed that Ovidio Guzmán was released in the same property where he was located during the failed operation for his capture last October 17 in Culiacán, Sinaloa.

During his morning news conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that this happened at the same time the Security Cabinet decided – in consensus – to suspend the operation against one of El Chapo’s sons.

Regarding criticism that asserts the failed operation and the federal government’s mistake of revealing Verde Montes’s name, the Navy minister, Admiral José Rafael Ojeda, asserted that the Armed Forces will not be affected because they are united and working jointly for Mexicans’ security.

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The head of Semar said, “Today, more than ever, the Armed Forces are united; there can be criticism and commentaries, but they won’t divide us… Today, more than ever, we are working for a common objective, which is society’s security.”

He added that during the Culiacán operation, Semar shared information with Sedena but it cannot be revealed, which was backed by Luis Cresencio Sandoval.

For his part, on Thursday, López Obrador denied discord among the upper echelons of the military, after a newspaper published the alleged speech of an army general sharply criticizing the government and a “politically polarized society.”

López Obrador took office late last year pledging to pacify the country with a security policy that deemphasizes armed confrontation, following years of military-led conflict with powerful drug cartels.

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Asked about a report published on Wednesday by newspaper La Jornada detailing a recent speech by an army general blaming López Obrador for polarizing the country and offending the military’s leadership, López Obrador denied any widespread discontent within the ranks.

“Regarding risks of division in the army, that doesn’t exist,” he said during his regular morning news conference.

“Today’s Mexico worries us,” said General Carlos Gaytán, a veteran commander who has served in several high-profile posts, according to the transcript of his October 22 speech published by La Jornada.

Gaytán gave the speech at Sedena’s facilities to an audience made up of his fellow generals.

“As Mexicans, we feel disrespected and as soldiers we’re offended,” he is quoted as saying.

Did you know authorities admit the operation to arrest Ovidio Guzmán was a failure?

López Obrador dismissed Gaytán’s comments as just another opinion and pointed to the general’s service under previous administrations that leaned more heavily on the military to battle organized crime.

“If he’s arguing that there’s disagreement within the army because of the application of a new policy, it’s understandable because for a long time a policy of extermination and repression was applied,” he said, stressing that such a strategy is no longer being applied.



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