(Bloomberg) -- Mexico’s government isn’t being truthful about the botched attempt to capture the son of the world’s most notorious drug trafficker, according to a former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
The administration of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador hasn’t revealed that while trying to bring Ovidio Guzman Lopez into custody, security forces had caught another son of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mike Vigil, the former DEA official, said in an interview.
Ivan Archivaldo Guzman Salazar had also been detained and let go when gunmen overpowered police, Vigil said, citing unverified intelligence he received from top Mexico police sources. The New York Times had originally reported that Ivan Archivaldo had also been captured and released, citing people who asked not to be identified.
“There are so many factors that point to the fact that he was there and they also released him,” said Vigil. “But they’ll never admit to it because they’ve been lying from the get go.” Vigil wouldn’t disclose the sources behind his assertions, which couldn’t be independently corroborated. He added that authorities have been misleading the public by playing down the amount of planning that went into the operation.
Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference Wednesday that he had no information on whether Ivan Archivaldo had been captured and released. AMLO’s press office strongly rejected Vigil’s assertion that it misled the public on the botched arrest. “There’s been an unusual amount of transparency, not only for Mexico but by international standards. The entire security cabinet was explaining every detail,” said Jesus Cantu, the information chief of the president’s press office. “The president himself said he’d testify before the authorities if they considered he’d done something illegal.”
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Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, has been struggling to convince the public that his government took the right step by releasing Guzman Lopez after gunmen began attacking civilians in efforts to free him in the northern city of Culiacan, Sinaloa. Guzman Lopez is said to have taken over some of the criminal activities after his father was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison.
Initially, Mexico’s security chief, Alfonso Durazo, had said the troops had stumbled on Guzman Lopez by accident. Afterward, government officials said it was part of a planned operation. More recently, officials signaled that the arrest was approved by low-level law enforcement officials and cabinet ministers may not have been aware.
While the president and Durazo have spoken of “errors” regarding the operation, they’ve been distancing themselves from it. AMLO, as the president is known, said Tuesday that he wasn’t informed about the operation to capture Guzman Lopez.
He also confirmed that there was an extradition order for the alleged trafficker and raised questions about whether the minister of defense had even been informed about the operation. “I think the Defense Ministry had knowledge of it, the minister? I don’t know. I think so.”
Jesus Ramirez, the president’s spokesman and like Cantu is also from AMLO’s press office, told Bloomberg News on Monday that Mexico attempted to detain Guzman Lopez upon request by the DEA for extradition. The DEA declined to comment and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City directed inquiries to the White House press office, which hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Vigil questioned why the authorities would target Guzman Lopez for extradition, when Chapo’s other sons are far more active in the Sinaloa Cartel once run by their father. “Jesus Alfredo and Ivan Archivaldo are much more important than Ovidio,” he said. “Mexico from the very beginning began distorting the truth in order to buy time so they could come up with a plausible deniability story.”
(Updates with AMLO’s comment in fifth paragraph)
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