March 2, 2014
CULIACAN, Mexico — Police in northern Mexico detained about 40 people Sunday who were apparently planning to demonstrate in support of captured drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The move came after a similar march demanding Guzman’s release last week drew about 1,000 enthusiastic supporters into the streets of Culiacan, the capital of northern Sinaloa state, which is the home base of the Sinaloa Cartel purportedly led by Guzman.
Daniel Gaxiola, spokesman for the Sinaloa state public safety department, said those detained were among a crowd of about 150 people who gathered at a shrine to Jesus Malverde, a folk saint viewed as the patron or protector of people involved in the drug trade. Some shouted “Long live Chapo!” and refused police orders to disperse, he said.
About 20 police patrol vehicles were sent to the scene, and Gaxiola said the 40 people detained were held for disturbing the peace.
Messages on social networking sites had urged people to gather at the shrine for a march in favor of Guzman, who is alleged to be the hemisphere’s most powerful drug lord.
In last Wednesday’s march, some participants said they liked Guzman because he provided jobs, money and protection. At that march, norteno musicians played trumpets while high school students in uniforms held up signs reading “We want Chapo free” and “We love Chapo.”
After that march, authorities said they would not seek to limit freedom of expression, but would not tolerate marches that disturbed the peace or provided support or justification for criminals.
Guzman was arrested Feb. 22 in the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan. Mexican federal judges have said he will have to stand trial on separate drug-trafficking and organized-crime charges in Mexico. The Attorney General’s Office said he also faces organized-crime charges in six other cases in four Mexican states and in Mexico City.
Guzman, who escaped from a western Mexico prison in 2001, is to remain in Mexico’s highest-security prison. The government has said he will not soon be extradited to the U.S., where Guzman has been indicted in California, New York and other states.