Mexico's Amlo says El Chapo 'had the same power' as past presidents

López Obrador took a blow at his predecessors while claiming Mexico’s era of corruption is ‘gone to the garbage dump of history’

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, closed out 2019 with a parting shot at his predecessors, saying the imprisoned drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera had once wielded the same power as the country’s president.

In a video message from the southern city of Palenque on Wednesday, López Obrador recounted his administration’s successes in its first year and highlighted its challenges foremost surging violence.

He claimed without offering any evidence that he had already done away with the high-level corruption that was rampant in previous governments, but said it was crucial to draw a bright line between criminal elements and authorities so that the two sides do not mingle as they had in the past.

“There was a time when Guzmán had the same power or had the influence that the then president had ... because there had been a conspiracy and that made it difficult to punish those who committed crimes. That has already become history, gone to the garbage dump of history,” López Obrador said.

It appeared to be a reference to the indictment and arrest last month of Mexico’s former public safety secretary Genaro García Luna. García Luna was public safety secretary in Felipe Calderon’s cabinet from 2006 to 2012. Before joining Calderon’s government, García Luna led Mexicos equivalent of the FBI, the Federal Investigative Agency, under Vicente Fox.

He was charged in federal court in New York with three counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of making false statements. He had been living in Florida and was arrested in Texas.

US prosecutors allege he accepted millions of dollars in bribes from Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel and in exchange allowed it to operate without interference.

Guzmán was convicted on drug conspiracy charges in New York. He was sentenced this year to life in prison.

López Obrador came to power a year ago promising a “hugs not bullets” approach of tackling the social roots of crime instead of confronting the cartels head-on.

But his vaguely defined strategy has itself come under intense criticism after a string of high-profile violent crimes, including an ambush which killed 13 state police officers, the murder of nine members of a US-Mexican family and the humiliating release of one of Guzmán’s sons after cartel gunmen besieged an entire city after he was briefly detained.

Staff and agencies in Mexico City

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mexico's president under pressure over 'hugs not bullets' cartel policy
Amlo strategy of alleviating poverty and a ban on corruption questioned amid recent cartel violence

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City

05, Nov, 2019 @12:27 PM

Article image
Jobs, roads and schools: Mexico's new president makes a play for El Chapo's homeland
Farmers in the impoverished region long ignored by the state have for decades scratched out a living from marijuana plantations and opium crops

David Agren in Badiraguato

12, Mar, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
Mexican president says he ordered release of El Chapo's son
Ovidio Guzmán was briefly captured in October only to be let go hours later as security was overwhelmed by cartel forces

Guardian staff and agencies in Mexico City

19, Jun, 2020 @9:35 PM

Article image
A naked escape and bribed presidents: El Chapo trial's shocking testimony
A New York court has heard how the Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzmán eluded capture with his mistress while paying off politicians and police

Ed Vulliamy in New York

19, Jan, 2019 @5:35 PM

Article image
Cowed and outgunned: why Mexico’s police 'don't stand a chance' against drug cartels
The 14 October massacre that left 13 state police dead was just one extreme episode of violence in a recent litany of horrors from Mexico’s drug wars

Jo Tuckman in El Aguaje

05, Nov, 2019 @9:00 AM

Article image
'We do not want war': Mexico president defends release of El Chapo’s son
Andrés Manuel López Obrador said security forces saved lives by releasing jailed kingpin’s son after his brief capture in Culiacán

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City

18, Oct, 2019 @4:30 PM

Article image
Mexico captures Sinaloa cartel boss who launched power bid after El Chapo arrest
Officials say Dámaso López, long considered El Chapo’s right-hand man, has been locked in a dispute for control of the gang

David Agren in Mexico City

02, May, 2017 @2:38 PM

Article image
El Chapo is not a Robin Hood but a 'cancerous tumour', US prosecutor says
Joaquín Guzmán pleaded not guilty at New York court hearing as the alleged drug kingpin faces life in US prison and seizure of $14bn in drug profits

Jon Swaine in New York

20, Jan, 2017 @6:09 PM

Article image
Mexico’s Amlo proposes referendum on prosecuting country’s ex-presidents
Mexican president delivered document to senate asking for plebiscite to be held alongside midterms in June 2021

David Agren in Mexico City

15, Sep, 2020 @7:24 PM

Article image
El Chapo Guzmán: Mexico's most wanted drugs kingpin arrested

Feared leader of Sinaloa cartel seized by security forces in resort city of Mazatlán

Jo Tuckman in Mexico City

23, Feb, 2014 @9:40 AM