Ovidio Guzmán López — El Chapo’s son — was born in Sinaloa Cartel country in northwestern Mexico, but raised hundreds of miles away from his drug-trafficking father in the lap of luxury.
As a boy, Ovidio — who was captured earlier this month by Mexican authorities, prompting a wave of cartel violence — was driven every morning by taxi to his elite Catholic boys’ school in the upscale Jardines del Pedregal neighborhood, one of Mexico City’s chicest enclaves.
But if his mother, Griselda López Perez, had wanted her youngest son to enter bourgeois society and pursue a post-secondary education, her plans were likely thwarted by her notorious husband.
Ovidio, who was captured in Sinaloa on Jan. 5, rose to form part of the leadership of the cartel run by his father. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán was captured by Mexican authorities in January 2016 and extradited to the US to face drug trafficking and murder charges.
By the time he was 11 years old in 2001, Ovidio — born to Griselda, El Chapo’s second wife and the mother of four of his reported 23 children — moved to Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, where his father had bribed prison guards and escaped from a maximum security prison. (El Chapo is currently serving a life sentence for murder and drug trafficking at a high-security prison in Colorado and recently pleaded with Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador to intervene over prison conditions that have allegedly left him “suffering.”)
By the time he turned 18, Ovidio had already joined the Sinaloa cartel at the behest of his father, working alongside his older brother Joaquin. Two of his half-brothers — Iván Archivaldo Guzmán Salazar and Jésus Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, the sons of El Chapo’s first wife, Alejandrina Salazar Hernandez — had also been recruited into the cartel.
Together, they were known as Los Chapitos — the little Chapos.
“Ovidio is not the norm,” said Benjamin Smith, a professor of Latin American history at the University of Warwick and the author of “The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade.” “Most cartel leaders want their kids to live a bourgeois lifestyle, to get a good education. They send them to Oxford or Harvard. They don’t want them to be part of the family business.”
And for good reason. El Chapo’s son Edgar Guzmán López was killed in a mob shoot-out in Culiacan in May 2008 at just 21 years old. He left behind a widow — who went on to marry boxer Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. — and daughter, Frida Sofia Guzmán Muñoz, who is now 17 and trying to make it as a singer.
In 2021, the US State Department offered rewards of $5 million for information leading to the capture of each of Los Chapitos.
Known as both El Raton (The Rat) or El Nuevo Raton (The New Rat), Ovidio, 32, is accused along with his older brothers — of “overseeing approximately 11 methamphetamine labs in the state of Sinaloa, producing an estimated 3,000-5,000 pounds of methamphetamine per month,” according to a State Department press release.
Like Pablo Escobar, the Colombian cocaine kingpin who was killed by Colombian forces in 1993, Ovidio is fond of flashy cars and designer clothes, according to Smith.
“Ovidio led an upper class life in Culiacan, and has never kept a low profile like some of the leaders of the cartels,” Smith told The Post. “Everyone in Culiacan knew where he lived.”
Before his Jan. 5 capture by Mexican forces, Ovidio lived with girlfriend Adriana Meza Torres, and the two apparently had a lot in common: She is the daughter of Raul Meza Ontiveros, part of the old guard of the Sinaloa cartel. Her father, known by his underworld moniker M-6, was killed in a shoot-out in Sinaloa in 2007, according to reports.
The glamorous Adriana’s connection with Ovidio her earned her the nickname of the new “Queen of the Sinaloa Cartel” after the drug-trafficking arrest of El Chapo’s current beauty-queen wife (and Ovidio’s stepmother), Emma Coronel Aispuro, in 2021.
Ovidio himself was first captured by Mexican National Guard forces on October 17, 2019, at his home in Culiacan. But when the Sinaloa cartel unleashed a wave of violence in the city of 889,000 residents — burning cars and taking hostages — officials let him go. Eight people were killed and 16 were injured in what came to be known as the “Culiacanazo,” or Black Thursday. The controversial decision to free Ovidio was backed by Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador, who has stressed social development as more important than a full-scale war on drugs since taking office in 2018.
“The officials who took this decision did well,” López Obrador said at the time.”The capture of a criminal is not worth more than people’s lives.”
On Jan. 9, four days before President Biden’s trip to Mexico for a North American leaders’ summit, authorities in Mexico recaptured Ovidio. The cartel unleashed another wave of violence, which reportedly saw them shooting at commercial jets trying to take off from Culiacan’s international airport and killing 30 people in the city.
“The violence wasn’t a statement about Ovidio’s capture,” Smith told The Post. “If they really wanted to go after the government and get him released, the cartel would shoot up government helicopters with missiles. Instead, the violence was more of a warning to the government to not go any further in trying to capture other cartel members.”
For Smith, the dramatic capture was little more than “a piece of political theater” for the benefit of Biden. “It was just a lot of noise because his capture does nothing for the drug trade except maybe to make drugs cheaper.”
Ovidio and his brothers may have a family legacy, but Smith said they are ultimately “small nodes in a huge network” that will continue lucrative drug trafficking without them.
The siblings control different areas of the state where they charge a tax to drug producers, he said. “So now, with his capture, you’ve just removed a layer of tax. Ovidio was essentially a tax man for the cartel.”
According to Smith, Ovidio likely annoyed one of his competitors.
“They squealed on him, and the police knew pretty well where he was located in Sinaloa because he had too much of a public profile and really a mini version of Escobar.”
Ovidio is currently being held in a federal prison in Mexico while his father languishes in a maximum security facility in Colorado.
El Chapo has repeatedly complained about his situation in US prisons.
“I have not seen the light of day,” writes Guzman in the letter to the Mexican president, adding that in the six years that he has been in solitary confinement at Administrative Maximum Penitentiary in Florence he has not been taken outside to get sunlight. “I have suffered a lot … from headaches, memory loss, muscle cramps, stress and depression.”
Meanwhile, in Mexico authorities are keeping a close eye on Ovidio in jail, said Smith, but that vigilance will likely ease up when he joins the general prison population.
“Then he’ll be able to do what he wants to do,” said Smith, adding that it is likely that Ovidio could continue cartel operations from behind bars. “He’s not a huge player, but he’s made to look like a huge player because he’s been caught.”