Neighbourhood ravaged in pursuit of Ovidio Guzman, son of El Chapo
Culiacan's Central Tres Rios neighbourhood, with its gated communities, upscale shopping centres and exclusive golf course, was ravaged by intense firefights last Thursday, concentrated on the street where soldiers attempted to arrest Ovidio Guzman, the son of jailed drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
Army of cartel gunmen
The trendy bars and restaurants along the main strip of the Mexican city were overwhelmed late last week by an army of cartel gunmen slowly began taking over as the weekend progressed, even as many traumatised residents still shied away.
Officials outmatched by cartel
While El Chapo's Sinaloa Cartel successfully pinched off access at various points in the city, their focus remained Tres Rios, where Ovidio Guzman was briefly found and detained, but later released after officials realised they were outmatched. Mexico's foreign minister admitted on Saturday that the government feared upwards of 200 civilian casualties if the operation to extract the young narco had continued.
Scrubbing dry blood
Just off the entrance of a Tres Rios seafood restaurant that found itself at the heart of the hours-long siege, workers scrubbed away the dried blood from the steps.
They said the spot marked the final resting place of a cartel gunman following what officials described as 14 separate, armed attacks launched by the Sinaloa Cartel's convoys of pickup trucks against Mexico's overwhelmed military at different points in the city.
Authorities faced tough competition
Upon finding out that authorities sought to capture Ovidio Guzman and extradite him to the United States, the cartel's heavily armed gunmen strategically erected 19 blockades during a roughly four-hour stretch in the afternoon, preventing additional military and police from responding as terrorised locals scurried for cover.
One of the most intense firefights took place on the block behind the restaurant where local residents said several military vehicles had stopped along a non-descript building with tall, white walls, in a bid to extract El Chapo's son from a residence inside.
Cartel in control?
Mexican officials on Friday admitted they had bungled the arrest of kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's son, who they let go during shootouts with drug gangs in the streets of a major city, but the president insisted his security strategy was working.
The chaos in Culiacan, a bastion of Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel, turned up the pressure on President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December promising to pacify a country weary of more than a decade of gang violence and murders.
In the end, Lopez Obrador came under heavy criticism on social media and from security experts, who said that authorities risked encouraging copycat actions by caving into the gang and that the retreat from a major city created the impression that the cartel, not the state, was in control.
Neighbourhood of bullet holes
The walls of the neighbourhood were covered with hundreds of bullet holes as if the building had broken out in a rash. The soldiers in the vehicles came under heavy fire from a hill across an adjacent drainage canal, separating Tres Rios from the Tierra Blanca residential neighbourhood, and several homes there were caught in the crossfire.