Government report on failed operation shows soldiers pushing Ovidio Guzmn Lpez to tell brothers to call off rescue attempt
Mexican soldiers who detained a son of the jailed drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn forced him to telephone his brothers in a desperate effort to call off a rescue attempt by cartel gunmen.
Instead, the call triggered a fresh onslaught in the northern city of Culiacn as the Sinaloa cartel mounted a terrifying show of strength that eventually prompted the outnumbered soldiers to free the capos son in exchange for their lives.
The video of Ovidio Guzmn Lpezs call was released on Wednesday as part of an extraordinary government report revealing just how badly things went wrong in the failed operation on 17 October.
President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador insisted the report would rebut the arguments of critics who say the disastrous operation has made his government appear weak and have called on him reconsider his commitment to a non-confrontational hugs not bullets security strategy.
We want everything to be known. Thats how we demonstrate the responsibility of the actions taken in a complex, difficult, and very serious situation, the president said. Its how we demonstrate that the most important thing is to protect citizens, to protect life.
The defence secretary, Luis Cresencio Sandoval, described Ovidio, 29, as one of the main traffickers of methamphetamines and fentanyl into the United States, and said the aborted operation stemmed from an arrest warrant with a view to extradition issued on 13 September.
The general said a special unit within the security forces was dispatched to Culiacn on 9 October with an arrest plan that involved the establishment of an inner and outer security cordon as soon as intelligence confirmed that Ovidio was at a house in the centre of the city.
Things began to fall apart, however, when attacks by gunmen prevented soldiers and members of the national guard from reaching their positions on the outer cordon.
Pressure increased, he said, when gunmen attacked blocks of flats occupied by the families of military personnel and took an officer and nine soldiers hostage.
Critics have argued that the authorities should have sent a larger force for the operation.
But Sandoval emphasized the gunmens military-grade arsenal, which included armoured vehicles, .50-calibre machine guns, and rocket launchers that hit a helicopter, and argued that to defeat the cartel force, the the army would have had to use even superior firepower which would have inevitably put civilians at risk.
The government says eight people died during the operation, though local media has put the death toll at 13.
As fighting raged across the city, it appears that the younger Guzmn never left the house were he was detained.
Video shot at the property shows him passing a handgun to an associate before emerging into a garage, fiddling with a black baseball cap before soldiers back him against the wall.
With intense gunfire in the background, a soldier shouts at him: Tell your people to stop this! after which he is seen holding a mobile phone.
Call it off, please, Ive given myself up, he is heard saying. Now stop it, calm down, theres nothing to be done Tell them to pull back, I dont want this, he continues.
But the attacks continued and four hours after the operation began, officials in Mexico City ordered security forces to withdraw.
Initial reaction to the report included some shock, and even admiration, that the government had been so open about such a disastrous event.
But many questions remain unanswered, including who gave the go-ahead for such an obviously badly planned operation and how the cartel obtained the intelligence to mount an effective rescue operation so quickly.
Lpez Obrador has promised to answer outstanding doubts at a press conference on Thursday.