By Sierra Juarez
TEXAS (AA) - The Mexican government has sent extra troops to monitor Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, to ensure that it remains peaceful after a clash between the army and cartel members left at least eight dead.
“230 elements of the Mexican Army’s Special Forces arrived in Culiacan [...] to protect citizens,” the Public Security office of Sinaloa confirmed on Twitter on Saturday.
The officials are responding to an incident on Thursday after law enforcement captured and then released the son of the infamous drug lord “El Chapo” Guzman. Ovidio Guzman Lopez was freed after the capital city, a stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, turned into a warzone.
Armed members of the Sinaloa cartel began shooting in several places throughout the city in order to create chaos and panic. They burned cars at several entrances into the city.
In videos circulated on social media, shots can be heard ringing through the streets as civilians run to safety. In the disorder, about 50 prisoners escaped from a local prison.
The federal government said the armed men also kidnapped several members of the army in order to negotiate for the son’s release, adding that they were outnumbered during the operation. To stop the fighting, the army released the son in a precedent never before seen in the country.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is known for his motto of not fighting violence with violence, said his government was correct in releasing the drug lord’s son, who has been indicted in the U.S. for drug trafficking. Lopez Obrador said the safety of the citizens of Culiacan outweighed the need to arrest the narco.
“You cannot fight fire with fire. We do not want deaths. We do not want a war,” Lopez Obrador said in a press conference.
Capitulating to the cartel’s wishes has been extremely controversial in Mexico. Some worry this will start a pattern of violence in the future while others have applauded the action saying that many lives may have been saved.
“One of the principal objectives of this administration is to pacify this country, but it should not be at the risk of fathers, mothers and children. The most important thing is people’s lives,” tweeted Mexico’s interior minister Olga Sanchez Cordero.
It’s unclear how long the extra army patrols will remain in Sinaloa.