What went on behind the scenes of the film-like operation? Ovidio Guzman, El Chapo’s son, was taken off guard

12 mins read

The repercussions of the capture of Ovidio Guzman, one of the leaders of Sinaloa, one of the most powerful and dangerous drug cartels in the world, in a raid on his house in the morning continue. What happened behind the scenes of the raid, which is considered one of the biggest operations against cartels in Mexico in recent years, has emerged. Details are in our news…

On the morning of January 5th… It’s about 4 o’clock in the morning… The place is a very luxurious mansion located in the hills of Jesus Maria, a small town 40 minutes from Culiacan, the capital of Mexico’s Sinaloa state…

It belongs to Ovidio Guzman, the son of Joaquin Guzman, known to the world as “El Chapo” or “The Shorty”.

The Mexican army detained Ovidio in a raid on his home earlier this month. The operation involved hundreds of special soldiers, as well as fighter jets and helicopters. The mansion, which had been the scene of the family’s New Year’s Eve celebrations the night before, turned into a war zone within minutes.


Ovidio, who was at home with his wife, mother and three daughters aged 3, 6 and 12 at the time of the raid, is the youngest of four siblings known in Mexico as “Los Chapitos” (the little Chapos).

After his father, Joaquin Guzman, was captured in 2016 and extradited to the United States for trial in 2017, Ovidio, along with his older brother Joaquin, 36, and older brothers Ivan Archivaldo (39) and Jesus Alfredo (36), born to another mother, took over the Sinaloa Cartel.

The US offered a $5 million reward for Ovidio’s capture in December 2021.


A statement from the Mexican army said Ovidio was captured in the first 10 minutes of the raid. But it did not stop there.

Clashes between cartel members and Mexican forces continued for 10 hours, resulting in dozens of casualties and the town of Jesus Maria in ruins.

The US-based news website VICE recently traveled to Jesus Maria and visited Ovidio’s house and wrote about the details of the raid.

The frame on the left is from 2019 and the one on the right is from this year (Photos: Government of Mexico)
The frame on the left is from 2019 and the one on the right is from this year (Photos: Government of Mexico)


According to the report, Ovidio’s mansion, also known in the country as “El Bebe” (The Baby) and “El Raton” (The Rat), is located on a hill overlooking the whole of Jesus Maria. Moreover, the only way in and out of the town is via the highway that connects to Culiacan.

Because the mansion sits on a hill, Ovidio’s men have a chance to anticipate the approach of law enforcement or members of other cartels and take precautions. Indeed, it is known that there are normally numerous 24-hour lookouts around the house and several checkpoints on the road leading to the mansion.

Eyewitnesses report that members of the cartel, called ‘sicario’, constantly patrol around the mansion in armored all-terrain vehicles with machine guns mounted on top.


But Ovidio and his men were caught unprepared for the raid on the morning of January 5. As a Mexican army helicopter landed in the backyard of the mansion and a line of soldiers moved toward the front door, Ovidio never even heard of them, local sources told VICE.

A source inside the Mexican army, who requested anonymity, said, “The plan worked. Some 20 to 25 soldiers from a task force entered Guzman’s house and managed to capture him in less than 10 minutes.”

The armored luxury vehicles belonging to Ovidio and his wife were rendered unusable by gunfire from high-caliber weapons.

Like his father, Ovidio’s house had a tunnel in the backyard, one end of which led to a parking lot outside the mansion. However, Ovidio did not have the opportunity to escape through this tunnel. The entrance to the tunnel, normally covered by a concrete block, was discovered during searches after the raid.


In 2019, the Mexican government detained Ovidio in a similar operation. However, when the cartel’s reaction to the operation snowballed into a bloody uprising, the government was forced to back down and suffered a major international embarrassment. The event went down in Mexican history as Black Thursday or “Culiacanazo”.

The world watched in horror the violent clashes and bloodshed of those days through videos shared on social media. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said months later that he had personally ordered Ovidio’s release and that his goal was to protect the majority of the population.

Ovidio became quite famous after this incident. Photos of him in a defiant demeanor went viral on the country’s social media. But according to army sources who spoke to VICE, in reality he was not so brave. He was in constant fear of being caught, shuttling between his homes in Culiacan, Jesus Maria and other neighboring towns.


Having decided to stay away before the Christmas and New Year holidays because he wanted to protect his family, Ovidio changed his mind at the last minute and in the last days of December ordered 12 of his most trusted men to secure his house in Jesus Maria. So he could bring his family home and they could all ring in the New Year together.

Neighbors said Ovidio arrived home alone and was joined a few weeks later by his wife, daughters and his mother, Griselda Lopez Perez, 63, El Chapo’s second wife.

A neighbor, who requested anonymity, said a cook, waiters and a mariachi band were hired for a party the night before the raid, during which children opened Christmas presents, adding: “They were asleep when the soldiers arrived. It was 4 in the morning.”

What went on behind the scenes of the film-like operation? Ovidio Guzman, El Chapo's son, was taken off guard 1
Mexican President Lopez Obrador held a press conference after the operation


Mexican authorities said the operation, carried out by three special units within the army, was the result of a six-month planning process.

Having learned its lesson from the 2019 fiasco, the Mexican government transported Ovidio by helicopter from Sinaloa to Mexico City shortly after his capture, where violence and looting took place. In and around Culiacan, cartel members set fire to buses, blocked streets and highways, and even fired on a military plane.

Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval announced that 29 people, including 10 soldiers and 19 cartel members, were killed in the operation in Culiacan, where Ovidio was detained. In addition to Ovidio, 21 people were detained. Locals claim that the death toll could be much higher, as more than 100 people, mostly young men, have not been heard from.


When Mexican President Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 with the slogan “Hugs, not bullets”, he promised to tackle violence at its roots, rather than addressing it harshly. In the following years, it has been debated whether this policy has been successful. Ovidio’s capture in such an armed operation has also fueled these debates.

Ovidio is currently being held in the high-security Altiplano Prison in the state of Mexico. El Chapo was held in this prison for 7 years starting in 2008 and made the headlines of the world press when he escaped in 2015.

The answer to the question of what’s next for Ovidio is unclear.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that the US wants Ovidio extradited, but that the young Guzman may have already been tried and convicted in his country.

Meanwhile, Ovidio’s lawyers filed an appeal on January 13 to halt the extradition order. However, the judge rejected the appeal due to errors in the documents. On the other hand, sources told VICE that the extradition process may never be completed.

What went on behind the scenes of the film-like operation? Ovidio Guzman, El Chapo's son, was taken off guard 2
El Chapo escaped from the Altiplano on July 11, 2015, using a kilometer-long tunnel he dug under the shower in his cell


Despite his capture in a movie-like operation, Ovidio’s influence within the cartel is said to be very limited, especially compared to Ivan.

Ovidio is associated with the increase in the production of the synthetic drug fentanyl in Mexico and its trade to the US. However, sources say that Ovidio’s main public profile is due to the fiasco that followed his arrest in 2019.

Ovidio has long been the least known member of the Guzman criminal dynasty. His name was first mentioned alongside his father and older brother Ivan in a US Treasury Department sanctions order in 2012. Despite this, he managed to keep a low profile for a long time until his arrest in 2019.

Ivan, on the other hand, became the face of the Chapitos. Well known to the public and security forces for his involvement in the 2004 murder of a Canadian university student in Guadalajara, Ivan was arrested in 2005 on money laundering charges but released a few years later due to lack of evidence.

Since then, Ivan and his brother Jesus Alfredo have also become famous for their online posts. Posts from Twitter and Instagram accounts believed to belong to the brothers feature themes of money, guns and beautiful women.


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