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U.S. Investigated Drug Cartel Ties to Mexican President’s Allies: Report

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cl.usembassy.gov

By: Jake Smith, Daily Caller News Foundation

U.S. investigators probed into the ties between the cartels and allies of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, The New York Times reported.

The investigation, which took place over several years, looked into allegations that drug cartels had met and provided Obrador’s allies with millions of dollars after he assumed office in 2018, according to NYT. The investigation was ultimately closed, in part because of the sensitive diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the status of the investigation.

Obrador decried the allegations as “completely false,” according to NYT. He said it would not affect the U.S.-Mexico relationship “in any way” but said he wanted a response from the U.S. government.

Drug cartels have had a hold on Mexico and its government for a long time, paying off and manipulating officials, police and politicians, according to the NYT. Prior investigations into Mexican officials tied to the cartel have resulted in criminal charges by the U.S. before, such as in the 2020 case of Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda and the 2023 case of former Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.

The recent decision to close the inquiry into Obrador’s allies came in part because sensitivities surrounding of the arrest of Zepeda, which Obrador and his allies were angered by and felt was based on “fabricated” charges, according to NYT. The Department of Justice reversed the indictment and released Zepeda after facing pressure from Obrador’s administration.

The investigation found no direct ties between Obrador, himself, and the cartels, and some of the information was collected by informants who are often incorrect, according to NYT. Some informant accounts suggested that Obrador’s allies met with the leader of the Sinaloa cartel prior to his election in 2018.

Another account suggested that the leader of the infamously violent Zetas cartel paid out $4 million to two of Obrador’s confidants as an attempted bribe to get released from prison, according to NYT. One account claimed that the cartels possessed video evidence of Obrador’s son picking up drug money.

U.S. investigators also tracked payments made by suspected cartel members to intermediaries of Obrador, according to NYT. One payment was made while Obrador was in Sinaloa visiting the mother of notorious drug lord Joaquín Guzmán Loera – informally known as El Chapo – who is currently serving a life sentence in U.S. federal prison.

Pursuing charges against Mexican officials is a sensitive and complex issue that risks damaging diplomatic relations, according to NYT. The U.S. has several trade agreements with Mexico and the country is seen as an irreplaceable playerin halting illegal immigration at the southern border.

Even as the recent case is closed, the fact it ever existed may upset Obrador, according to NYT. Obrador was angered when several media outlets reported last month on a separate U.S. probe into his campaign donations in a prior failed presidential race.

“How are we going to be sitting at the table talking about the fight against drugs if they, or one of their institutions, is leaking information and harming me?” Obrador said during a press conference in January, the NYT reported.

President Joe Biden called Obrador to calm him down following the reports, according to NYT. The Biden administration has been particularly careful in dealing with Obrador and his administration.

Related Story: Biden Admin Sanctions Fentanyl Crisis ‘Enablers’ in China, Mexico

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