A report from The Federalist
The southwest U.S. border might be quieter now than it was this spring at the height of the migrant crisis, but south of the Rio Grande the Mexican state is disintegrating.
Last Thursday in the city of Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, a battle erupted between government forces and drug cartel gunmen after the Mexican military captured two sons of jailed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The elder son, Ivan, was quickly freed by his men, who overpowered government forces and secured his release. Ivan then launched an all-out siege of the entire city in an effort to free his younger brother, Ovidio.
The ensuing scene could have been mistaken for Syria or Yemen. Footage posted on social media Thursday showed burning vehicles spewing black smoke, heavily armed gunmen blocking roads, dead bodies strewn in the streets, and residents fleeing for cover amid high-caliber gunfire.
Armed with military-grade weapons and driving custom-built armored vehicles, cartel henchmen targeted security forces throughout Culiacan, launching more than one dozen separate attacks on Mexican security forces. They captured and held hostage eight soldiers, then kidnapped their families. Amid the fighting, an unknown number of inmates escaped from a nearby prison. At least eight people were killed and more than a dozen were injured.
The eight-hour battle ended when government forces, outgunned and surrounded, without reinforcements or a way to retreat, received an order directly from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to release their prisoner and surrender. Lopez Obrador later defended this decision, insisting that his security strategy is working and saying, “Many people were at risk and it was decided to protect people’s lives. I agreed with that, because we don’t do massacres, that’s over.”
Mexican president says they had to release the son of drug kingpin Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman after an intense battle between security forces and cartel gunmen as 'the situation became very difficult' and 'many people were at risk' https://t.co/guzODO7t8i pic.twitter.com/uFAU0pDCfD
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 18, 2019
The Mexican State Is Collapsing
The battle of Culiacan marks a turning point in the collapse of the Mexican state. There is now no doubt about who is in control of Sinaloa, let alone the rest of the country. Cartel forces seized a major regional capital city in broad daylight and defeated the national armed forces in open battle.
Violence is rampant across Mexico. Earlier in the week, more than one dozen police officers were massacred in a cartel ambush in western Mexico. A day later, 14 suspected gang members were killed by the Mexican Army. Homicides in Mexico this year are on track to surpass last year’s record total of more than 29,000.[Read more: The Federalist / John Davidson