Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s supporters march through Mexican city
Demonstrators in Culiacán call for release of drug kingpin, who they claim provided jobs for young people and kept streets safe
Thursday 27 February 201406.15 EST8comments
A brass band plays the favourite songs of ‘El Chapo’ Guzman during the march in Culiacán. Photograph: Daniel Becerril/Reuters
Agencies in Culiacán
More than a thousand people have marched through the streets of the Mexican city of Culiacán to calling for the release of the captured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman.
The largely young crowd, many dressed in white, carried bore signs saying “We want Chapo Freed” as they filed through the center of the city, in the north-western state of Sinaloa.
Demonstrators also said they opposed any attempt to extradite Guzman to the US, where he faces several drug-trafficking charges in different states. Many said he provides employment in poor mountain areas.
“The government doesn’t give any job opportunities,” said Daniel Garcia, an unemployed 20-year-old. “The situation is, honestly, really difficult and he helps out the young people, giving them jobs.”
“We support ‘Chapo’ Guzman because he is the one who gives us jobs and helps out in the mountains,” said Pedro Ramirez, who was part of a group of 300 who had travelled from Badiraguato, a town in the Sierra Madre where Guzman was born 56 years ago.
Guzman, who rose from humble origins to become one of the most powerful drug barons in history, was captured on Saturday in a raid in the beachside resort and fishing centre of Mazatlan, 125 miles (200km) south-east of Culiacán.
President Enrique Peña Nieto said on Wednesday there would be no swift extradition to the US for Guzman as he still has an outstanding prison term after staging a jailbreak in 2001, reportedly in a laundry cart.
Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel are suspected of shipping billions of dollars worth of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana into the US.
Some in the crowd credited Guzman and his gang for keeping the city free of the extortions and kidnappings that plague other parts of Mexico, where rival gangs reign. One printed sign said: “We respect El Chapo more than any elected official.”
Although security officials blamed the Sinaloa cartel for thousands of killings in the gang violence that has rockedMexico over the past decade, Guzman’s outfit were seen by many as less of a threat to the public than their bloodiest rivals.
The march took on a festive mood as the demonstrators walked to the city’s central cathedral.
Brass bands played songs known to be favourites of Guzman, who was Mexico’s most wanted man and Chicago’s first public enemy number one since the notorious mobster Al Capone. One woman carried a banner that read “Chapo, give me a child”.
The relatively large turnout may have to do with the uncertainty felt by Sinaloans over the future of the multibillion-dollar illegal drug business, which provides a boost for their agricultural state. Experts say Guzman’s arrest won’t slow the
Sinaloa cartel, but many fear the area’s economy may be disrupted.
It was unclear who organised the march, which began with young men handing out white T-shirts and professionally printed banners. Other youths in pickup trucks, their faces masked by bandanas, handed out water and cornmeal tamales once the crowd reached the end of their route.
Flyers had been distributed in the city earlier in the day and many residents thought it was a joke. Political marches are common in Mexico, but not demonstrations in favour of wanted drug kingpins.
“This is amazing,” said Rosa, 40, a lab analyst who declined to give her last name, as she watched the march from the roadside amid the crowds of shoppers and commuters. “It is true what they say, there is no violence and no extortion.”
The festivities soured when city police waded into the crowd. Officers were surrounded by jeering demonstrators, many of whom fled as police doused them with pepper spray.
Earlier on Wednesday, the self-described assistant to Guzman was charged with possessing illegal weapons when he was captured this weekend with his boss, the attorney general’s office said. Intelligence about Carlos Manuel Hoo Ramirez was key in leading Mexican marines to the Mazatlan beachside property where Guzman’s years as fugitive came to an end on Saturday.
Dr. Ana AlvesAssistant Professor of Political Science