Mexican president suggests US migration and drug talks could suffer from drug money allegations

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s president suggested Thursday that negotiations with the U.S. government on migration and drug trafficking could suffer. media reports are reporting a U.S. investigation into alleged drug money donations to his 2006 campaign.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested that U.S. officials should apologize for what he called baseless allegations, and said it would be difficult to sit down and talk about some of the most pressing issues. urgent bilateral relations until that happens.

“I do not accept this, what I want is for the American government to take a position,” López Obrador said during his daily morning press briefing. “If they have no proof, they should apologize.”

“President (Joe) Biden needs to find out about this,” López Obrador said. “How are we going to sit down at a table and talk about the fight against drugs if one of their agencies leaks information and harms me?” How are we going to talk about migration, how are we going to talk about the fight against drugs or fentanyl?

The Biden administration has for some time relied on Mexico’s willingness to accept the return of third-country migrants as a way to quickly return migrants and asylum seekers to the U.S. southwest border.

It would be a political problem for Biden if Mexico refused to continue doing so or relaxed its already weak efforts to control the flow of deadly opioids manufactured in Mexico and smuggled into the United States.

Lopez Obrador – who pointedly called former President Donald Trump “My friend” later in the briefing – did not specify who he wanted to apologize to, but suggested that the US State Department should say something.

“Does the State Department, the Justice Department, have no information? he said, calling media reports “interventionism” in Mexico’s internal affairs.

López Obrador has denied old allegations that drug traffickers may have donated about $2 million to his first failed attempt at a presidential election — he lost in 2012 and ultimately won in 2018 — and called the reports a American attack against his government and his Morena party. June 2 presidential election in Mexico.

Claudia Sheinbaum, the presidential candidate for López Obrador’s Morena party, is leading opinion polls for the June 2 elections. But Mexico’s continued high rates of violence — and Sheinbaum’s pledge to continue López Obrador’s policy of not taking on drug cartels — constitute one of the ruling party’s most vulnerable flanks.

According to reports from ProPublica, Insight Crime and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, the DEA in 2010 investigated allegations by a cooperating drug trafficker and a former campaign adviser that leaders of the Beltrán drug cartel Leyva gave money to close confidants of López Obrador in 2006.

But wiretapping a conversation between DEA informants and one of López Obrador’s top aides did not actually confirm the donations, and U.S. officials later ordered the politically sensitive case closed.

Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, worried that the latest dispute could harm U.S.-Mexico cooperation in combating drug trafficking in much the same way as the 2020 U.S. deal. arrest of former Mexican defense secretarythe general. Salvador Cienfuegos.

López Obrador has long complained about the actions of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Mexico, and after Cienfuegos’ arrest, he imposed restrictions on U.S. agents in Mexico.

“It’s just terrible, it’s going to mean more drugs flowing into the United States and more violence in Mexico,” Vigil said. “It’s worse than when Cienfuegos was arrested.”

“This is a direct attack on him. Secondly, he sees it as having an impact on the presidential campaign or the upcoming presidential elections,” Vigil said. “Now if we thought relations with Mexico were bad, they are going to get worse to almost non-existent.”

López Obrador has long been angry at the perception of American interference. He claimed the U.S. arrest of Cienfuegos, the former defense secretary, was part of a DEA plot to weaken Mexico’s armed forces and allow U.S. agents to rule freely in Mexico .

Cienfuegos was arrested at a Los Angeles airport in 2020, accused of participating in an international drug trafficking ring and money laundering.

Mexico demanded Cienfuegos’ release, apparently threatening to expel U.S. agents if he was not returned. United States dropped the charges and fired him. Mexico quickly absolved Cienfuegos of any wrongdoing and subsequently blocked the U.S. agents’ visas and restricted the work they could perform in Mexico.

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Follow AP’s coverage of Latin America and the Caribbean at https://apnews.com/hub/latin-america

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