Mexican president lashes out after reviews of drug cartel investigations | EUROtoday

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MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lashed out Thursday at a report that U.S. brokers had investigated doable ties between his aides and drug traffickers, within the newest jolt to anti-narcotics cooperation with the United States.

U.S. brokers have been informed by informants that drug teams have been involved with the president’s allies earlier than and after his 2018 election, in response to the New York Times — and on one event, the aides allegedly obtained $4 million.

The U.S. authorities discovered no direct connection between the president and legal teams, the Times reported. It by no means opened a proper probe. “There is no investigation into President López Obrador,” the Justice Department mentioned in an announcement.

López Obrador responded Thursday that the fees have been false and unsupported by any documentation.

The report got here at a fragile second. López Obrador has been an important associate to the Biden administration because it tries to sluggish irregular migration. U.S. officers are additionally urging Mexico to crack down on the manufacturing of lethal fentanyl.

But earlier this month, the Mexican chief almost canceled a high-level assembly on fentanyl and migration after different information reviews raised questions on alleged drug cash in his first presidential marketing campaign in 2006. López Obrador denied these allegations. The Feb. 6 assembly went forward after President Biden referred to as his Mexican counterpart.

The controversy hasn’t, nevertheless, died down. The reviews concerning the unsuccessful 2006 marketing campaign spawned a hashtag #narcopresidente — narco president — which exploded on social media. López Obrador’s opponents have seized on the drug allegations as they attempt to dislodge his occasion from workplace in nationwide elections on June 2. The president’s protégé, former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, has a large lead in polls.

López Obrador mentioned Thursday that he supposed to take care of good relations with Washington — however U.S. businesses wouldn’t be allowed to analyze Mexican officers.

“There is cooperation, there has to be,” López Obrador informed his every day information convention. “But we won’t accept subordination, or interventionism.”

How an important U.S.-Mexico anti-drug alliance fell aside as fentanyl took off

The Mexican chief has had frosty relations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration since he took workplace in 2018. López Obrador declared the U.S.-backed drug warfare a failure and introduced a coverage often known as “hugs, not bullets” — counting on social applications to maintain individuals from becoming a member of drug gangs.

Cooperation with the DEA almost collapsed after the company secretly investigated a former Mexican protection minister, Salvador Cienfuegos, on drug prices, resulting in his 2020 arrest in Los Angeles. The Trump administration freed him amid an outcry by Mexico’s authorities. Yet the DEA’s means to function was severely curbed, simply as Mexico was rising because the No. 1 supply of fentanyl to the United States.

The Times cited two accounts of alleged contacts between López Obrador’s aides and drug traffickers. In one, an informant described a gathering with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García, a frontrunner of the Sinaloa cartel, earlier than López Obrador gained the 2018 election. In the second, one other informant mentioned {that a} founding father of the Zetas cartel gave $4 million to 2 of his allies in an effort to win launch from jail.

The report didn’t determine the president’s aides allegedly concerned in both case. It’s not clear whether or not the reviews have been ever independently confirmed, the Times reported.

In a 3rd case, the Times reported, a supply informed U.S. brokers that trafficking teams had movies of the president’s sons receiving drug cash.

The American ambassador to Mexico from 2019-2021, Christopher Landau, informed The Washington Post that he was by no means knowledgeable of any such allegations. “It raises questions about how seriously this was taken, or what level of confidence” the DEA had within the info, he mentioned.

As fentanyl disaster grows, U.S.-Mexico divide deepens

A former senior DEA official, talking on the situation of anonymity to guard his present non-public sector job, mentioned he was conscious of informants’ accounts of drug cash flowing into López Obrador’s campaigns. But to construct a case, brokers would wish authorization from a high-level committee that might weigh doable implications for U.S. overseas coverage. That permission wasn’t sought, he mentioned.

“We already knew what the answer was going to be,” he mentioned.

For many years, drug-trafficking teams have penetrated the Mexican authorities. A 12 months in the past, one of many U.S. authorities’s closest companions within the drug struggle, Genaro García Luna, who was public-security minister from 2006-2012, was discovered responsible in U.S. federal court docket of accepting bribes from the Sinaloa cartel.

Critics have usually questioned whether or not López Obrador adopted his “hugs not bullets” method as a result of he’d reduce a take care of drug teams. Yet Falko Ernst, a senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group, mentioned that the president’s insurance policies truly weren’t that completely different from these of his predecessor. López Obrador, for instance, captured Ovidio Guzmán, a son of famed druglord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, and extradited him to the United States to face drug-trafficking prices.

“This administration has been pushing a narrative that is sometimes quite starkly disconnected with realities on the ground,” he mentioned.

López Obrador steadily tries to discredit journalists who write critically about him, and Thursday’s information convention was no completely different. In ridiculing Times correspondent Natalie Kitroeff’s efforts to get touch upon the drug story, the president revealed her telephone quantity.

Jan-Albert Hootsen, Mexico consultant of the Committee to Protect Journalists, mentioned the transfer was unethical in a rustic with excessive charges of violence towards reporters. “The Mexican press and foreign press here already have more than enough security concerns,” he mentioned.

Devlin Barrett in Washington and Lorena Rios in Monterrey, Mexico, contributed to this report.