Mexico's president defends decision to release El Chapo's son

A day after Mexican security forces released a son of jailed kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman following an intense battle with cartel gunmen in broad daylight, Mexico's president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended the decision.

(SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) MEXICAN PRESIDENT, ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR, SAYING: "The situation became very difficult, and many citizens, many people, many human beings 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."

Cartel gunmen surrounded security forces in Culiacan- a stronghold of El Chapo's Sinaloa cartel- forcing them to free the drug lord's son Ovidio Guzman.

The shootout brought the city to a standstill, cars were burned down and dead bodies were left on the street. Sinaloa state officials confirmed that as the mayhem unfolded a jail break also took place.

The violent reaction to his son's capture was on a scale rarely seen in Mexico's drug war, even compared to his more famous father's arrests.

Mexico's defense minister told a news conference that he had reports of at least eight people killed, including five suspected gang members.

The all-out clash - heaping pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office last year promising to tame drug violence, arguing that authorities should focus more on the root causes of drug violence, such as poverty and a lack of jobs.

But with the murder tally in Mexico on track to surpass last year's record of more than 29,000 -Mexicans are skeptical of his approach.

At the center of his strategy has been the creation of new National Guard, but thousands of that militarized police force have instead been sent to contain illegal immigration throughout Mexico at the behest of U.S. President Donald Trump.

One security analyst summing up the situation for Reuters saying "What is incontrovertible is that the Sinaloa Cartel won yesterday's battle...adding "Not only did they get the government to release Ovidio, they demonstrated to the citizens of Culiacán as well as the rest of Mexico who is in control."