Police in northern Mexico have detained about 100 people in a failed attempt to stop a second demonstration in less than a week to voice support for the world’s most wanted drug lord, who was captured last week.
About 20 police patrol vehicles were deployed in Culiacan, the capital of northern Sinaloa state on Sunday, to stop the march in support of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, but many of the supporters refused orders to disperse.
Culiacan judge Gabriel Pena Gonzalez told the Associated Press news agency that more than 100 people had been brought in on disturbing-the-peace and other charges by late Sunday.
Several protesters evaded the heavy police presence by splitting into groups and marching towards the city centre as dozens were detained along the way.
Earlier in the day, a crowd of about 150 people 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!”
Messages on social networking sites had urged people to gather at the shrine for a march in favour of Guzman, who is alleged to be the hemisphere’s most powerful drug lord, and who some local residents said provided jobs, money and security for inhabitants.
Some of the marchers were from the township of Badiriguato, where Guzman is from. They said they had been promised about $53 each for attending the protest. Some women and men could be seen at the end of the march writing down participants’ names in notebooks.
As the disorganised march reached the centre of Culiacan, shots rang out and protesters scattered.
It was unclear who fired the shots, but Francisco Cuamea, editor of the Noroeste newspaper in Culiacan, said two of the paper’s photographers were roughed up by police when they tried to photograph shell casings left behind.
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.
Last Wednesday, a march demanding Guzman’s release drew about 1,000 supporters onto the streets of Culiacan, the home base of the Sinaloa Cartel purportedly led by Guzman.
Guzman was arrested on February 22 in the Pacific Coast city of Mazatlan. Mexican federal judges have said he will have to stand trial on separate drug-trafficking and organised-crime charges in Mexico.
The Attorney General’s Office said he also faced organised-crime charges in six other cases in four Mexican states, and in Mexico City.
The government has said he will not soon be extradited to the US, where Guzman has been indicted in California, New York and other states.