World, Americas

Mexicans to march for peace after drug related clashes

Citizens of Sinaloa state to take to streets on Sunday to give message that Mexican state 'doesn’t belong to criminals'

Daniela Alejandra Mendoza Valero   | 25.10.2019
Mexicans to march for peace after drug related clashes

MEXICO

Mexicans are set to march for peace on Sunday after the Sinaloa Cartel showed its gun power last Thursday in a battle in daylight against state security forces during a military operation to capture El Chapo's son.

Ovidio Guzman Lopez, aka El Raton (The Mouse), is a Mexican drug lord and former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, who is currently serving a life sentence.

On Black Thursday, as the clashes were out of control, citizens of Culiacan, Sinaloa in western Mexico witnessed scenes reminiscent of a war zone as panic engulfed the city, a stronghold of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Gun fights ensued like never seen before, with shops ravaged and cars ablaze blocking bridges and roads to the city.‌ The confrontation affected public transport and commercial flights.

The Sinaloa Cartel is a criminal organization linked to other international groups.

Enjoying greater numbers and better equipment, the group's gunmen pushed state security forces from the city, resulting the deaths of 14 and 21 injured, according to authorities. At least 51 jailed members of the group escaped prison.

A week later, the area is still reeling despite citizens resuming their daily lives. The battle is considered the worst violence seen in the city, even worse than the murder of another Chapo’s son, Edgar‌ Guzman Lopez in 2008.

State authorities have called for a peaceful demonstration in the city called Brave Culiacan -- the capital of Sinaloa state -- this week to voice the message, Sinaloa does not belong to criminals.

Proponents said the demonstration would help change the perception of the city.

Black Thursday

What looked like a normal day in a city accustomed to cartel violence became a scene of unprecedented terror.

For roughly half a century, violence has been part of Culiacan city, where many major criminal groups emerged, including the Guadalajara Cartel that was later renamed the Sinaloa‌ Cartel.

Social media proved pivotal in spreading information about the chaos in the city after authorities failed to inform the public of what was going on during the operation.

A worker at a self-service shop in Culiacan, who asked to keep her name anonymous, told Anadolu Agency that on Black Thursday, she was working when frightened customers entered the shop, saying that armed people walked the streets.

She said the sounds of gunfire were "normal" in Culiacan because of the drug-related clashes and that this was the reason why nobody "paid much attention" at the beginning.

"Later I received a video of drivers that work with the shop doing deliveries telling us that they couldn't drive in the city because the streets were seized by gunmen. I was just a block away from where all this happened," she said. "We never saw anything like this and we kept telling people to stay safe and go back to their homes".

During an intense five-minute gunfight outside the store, she said that they asked the security personnel to close the doors.

"People walking down the street knocked on the windows and we let them in the store to protect them," she added.

Life only returned to normal in the city on Saturday.

'Army applied terrible planned operation'

After a week of violence, Silber Meza, journalist and director of human rights group Iniciativa Sinaloa (Initiative Sinaloa), talked about the failed military operation and subsequent release of Ovidio Guzman.

"The operation failed not only because the authority did a really bad job; I don't remember operations of this magnitude that left the army and citizens so vulnerable. This happened in the past, but there are no such precedents in Sinaloa. Second, the decision to release Ovidio is totally understandable, they were forced to it during the failed operation," Meza told Anadolu Agency.

Meza said it was "incredible" that the government had not calculated the capability the powerful cartel had for violence.

"The army has more power than the cartel, the problem is that it was a terribly-planned operation. With very few security forces, the cartel's reaction was brutal," he added.

"They overcame only the operation, not the state. They even told them: 'We have already captured so many soldiers and their families'," he said.

Meza underlined that this incident constituted "a terrible precedent", due to the fact that the cartel feels victorious in its aftermath.

*Jose Baez G. and Daniela Mendoza in Colombia, Beyza Binnur Donmez in Ankara contributed to the story.


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