Mexico's Security Minister Alfonso Durazo and Sinaloa State Governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel hold a news conference a day after…
Mexico's Security Minister Alfonso Durazo and Sinaloa Gov. Quirino Ordaz Coppel hold a news conference a day after cartel gunmen clashed with federal forces, resulting in the release of Ovidio Guzman from detention, in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Oct. 18, 2019.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Friday defended freeing the son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, whom police let go during a shootout with drug gangs. 

Lopez Obrador said police "did well" to free Ovidio Guzman, contending that "capturing a criminal can't be worth more than people's lives." 

Police briefly captured Guzman late Thursday but released him when cartel gunmen in the northwestern Mexican city of Culiacan surrounded authorities and opened fire across the city, sparking widespread gunbattles. 

Mexican Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval told a news conference in Culiacan on Friday that the operation had not been planned properly. 

"It was done hastily, the consequences were not considered, the riskiest part wasn't taken into account," he said. 

'Failure'

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo, who also addressed the news conference, called the operation a "failure." 

Mexican security forces have been criticized for releasing Guzman, giving the impression that the city is under the control of the drug cartel. 

Lopez Obrador insisted Friday that his security strategy for the country was working, saying, "We're doing really well in our strategy.” He took office in December promising a less confrontational approach to fighting gangs that focuses more on tackling social ills instead of the use of force. 

Video footage posted on social media from Thursday's violence showed panicked residents feeling gunshots. The violence also led to a large group of inmates at the city prison rioting and escaping from the building. 

The elder Guzman is serving a life sentence in the United States after being convicted in February of drug trafficking. He had previously escaped from prison in Mexico twice, in 2001 and 2015. 

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