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Report: U.S. investigated ties between drug cartel and Mexican President’s allies

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U.S. investigators have been looking into ties between drug cartels and allies of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, The New York Times reported. The investigation, which spanned 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.

Drug cartels have had a known hold on Mexico and its government for decades by paying off and manipulating officials, police and politicians, according to the NYT. Obrador decried the allegations as “completely false.” 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.

The Daily Caller News Foundation writes that 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.

The Daily Caller News Foundation notes of the Times’ report:

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.

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.

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War on Drugs

NGO warns migrants coming to border are already addicted to fentanyl

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An organization that helps those with drug addiction on the Mexico-U.S. border warned that fentanyl consumption has reached migrants arriving in Ciudad Juárez, where some already arrive with drug problems from their countries, according to Mexican government statistics and a report published by the EFE Spanish news agency.

ADN America reports that Julián Rojas Padilla, coordinator of Harm Reduction in the Compañeros Program (HRCP), a civil association that supports consumers who want to quit substances, told Spanish language media outlets that fentanyl mixed with other drugs in Juárez has become a popular new and dangerous choice of narcotics reaching the migrant population.

The anti-drug activist also said that among those arriving in Ciudad Juárez, they have detected some who ingest drugs and others who take them throughout their harsh migration journey to endure it.

“Without job opportunities, support networks, the vulnerable conditions in which they find themselves, all of this leaves them exposed to experimenting with other types of substances or to return to the substances that they already consumed from their place of origin or that they consumed there. for some time,” Rojas said, according to the agency.

The alert comes as pressure grows from the United States to control fentanyl trafficking from Mexico, which claims that the drug and its chemical precursors arrive from Asia to the country, where Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denies that there is a consumption problem.

A few weeks ago, the National Commission on Mental Health and Addictions (CONASAMA) reported the care of 430 patients for ingesting fentanyl in 2023, an increase of 29% compared to 333 the previous year.

“They are concentrated in states in the north of the country such as Baja California, Baja California Sur, Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Sonora. This shows that the increase is at a local level, not national. However, the main concern revolves around its high lethality,” the entity warned in a report.

Rojas Padilla also explained that fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 150 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more intense than morphine, which makes it deadly. He explained that it has an effect of sedation, lethargy and turning people like “zombies,” who remain immobile and lose track of time.

He also warned that this substance has no color or smell, so anyone who consumes any other drug adulterated with fentanyl can easily overdose. The expert warned that such a situation puts the migrant population even more at risk, because when they obtain a substance they do not have the possibility of knowing if it is adulterated with the powerful substance.

“People don’t realize until they consume it and have an overdose event,” he said. “That is the way to detect the presence of fentanyl,” he said

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