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Mexico’s President AMLO Just Said ‘El Chapo’ Had As Much Power As The President And That’s A Big Deal

Even behind bars in a maximum security prison in the United States, where he will live for the rest of his life, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán exerts enormous political influence due to his legacy. This legacy involves not only the still viable and very much present criminal organization that he founded, the Sinaloa Cartel, but also the networks of vested interests and corruption that the cartel threaded with and within all levels of government throughout the decades. These acts of corruption are being slowly revealed and the magnitude of the Cartel’s influence in past and current administrations at all levels of government is just now beginning to be fully understood. 

Just recently Genaro García Luna, the architect behind President Felipe Calderón’s 2006-2012 full frontal war against the cartels was arrested by United States authorities for allegedly receiving bribes from Sinaloa and using federal security forces to decimate its enemies. This was seen by opponents of the former president as a validation of their point of view that Calderón had benefited the Sinaloa Cartel by using the army against other organizations such as Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. 

Now a New Year’s video from the city of Palenque in which current Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador recounts what he believes are the accomplishments of his first year in power further fed the myth of El Chapo as an omnipresent figure in cultural, social and political life in Mexico . The video also made many question whether Mexico is in fact a narco-State, a country whose government dances to the rhythm set by criminal organizations. What AMLO said is nothing new, but rather sort of validates what was un secreto a voces. 

AMLO said that El Chapo was just as powerful as his predecessors.

Power is the capacity to make others do what you want them to, either for personal or communal benefit. Plain and simple. AMLO said: “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.” He was referring, of course, to Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, with whom he had an antagonistic relationship for years. 

Few political pundits question whether El Chapo had an influence in past administrations, but what can be debated is whether AMLO’s presidency has a stronger hold of power vis a vis the cartels. 

He also used a word that has been long one of his favorites: conspiracy. It sometimes seems that for AMLO anything that escapes a logical explanation falls into the category of a “complot” in the highest spheres of power.

As The Guardian states, AMLO’s words are sort of empty and in line with his rhetorical style of offering little proof when stating big, important things: “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.”

But how can this line be drawn when municipal, state and federal forces find it hard and almost impossible to coordinate? As The Guardian reminds us, the lack of specificity in AMLO’s political style is often dumfounding: “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.”

Critics were quick to remind AMLO that his “abrazos no balazos” (hugs instead of bullets) policy has been ineffective.

Credit: Keriarko / Instagram

Cartoonists and commentators were quick to point out that AMLO’s first year in power was the most violent ever (save for the period known as the Mexican Revolution). Also key in the first year of government was the embarrassing episode in which Ovidio, El Chapo’s son, was found by security forces but then let go when hitmen from all over Sinaloa descended on Culiacan to fight state and federal forces. In videos captured by bystanders and then shared on social media, we can see cartel members carrying heavy weaponry that in theory can only be used by the military.

It was overwhelming to see how much influence they also have in the population, as online chatter was divided in how positively or negatively they thought of the cartel.

Critics blamed AMLO for his lack of leadership in face of the cartel’s intimidation tactics, while supporters cheered his decision to stop the bloodshed and protect human life above anything else (it is said that cartel hitmen held a building hostage; this building worked as a housing facility for military families).

The President Of Mexico Has Been Trying To Sell His Presidential Jet As Part Of His Austerity Program—But No One Will Buy It

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The President Of Mexico Has Been Trying To Sell His Presidential Jet As Part Of His Austerity Program—But No One Will Buy It

Fuerza Aerea Mexicana

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has made selling off the luxurious presidential jet a centerpiece of his austerity program, but there’s just one problem: nobody wants to buy a presidential jet —and the luxurious vessel just keeps accruing maintenance costs. 

The jet was on sale in the US for over a year —and it accrued quite the maintenance bill.

López Obrador said on Tuesday the Boeing Dreamliner will be returned to Mexico after a year on sale in the United States, where it piled up about $1.5m in maintenance costs.

Surprisingly, nobody wanted to buy the plane.

Bought by his predecessor Enrique Peña Nieto, the jet was reconfigured to carry only 80 people – albeit with a full presidential suite with a bedroom and private bath. López Obrador said potential buyers had been unable to obtain financing for the purchase.

AMLO wants to sell—or maybe even rent it out—to be able to pay it off.

Among the ideas López Obrador is now entertaining is to sell it to a consortium of companies for executive incentive programs, rent it out or barter it for needed goods, in hopes of paying off the remainder of the purchase price.

The Mexican president hoped to destine the funds from the extravagant plane, toward social programs —but the sale hasn’t been possible.

Gone are the hopes it would raise a lot of money for anti-poverty programs. Mexico is now just hoping to cut its losses on the plane, which is too expensive to reconfigure back into a commercial airliner that normally carries as many as 300 passengers.

AMLO avoids traveling abroad and only takes commercial flights.

Lopez Obrador, who has opted to fly tourist class on regular commercial flights and avoids traveling abroad, has long railed against perks provided for public servants. Whenever possible, he likes to travel by ground in an SUV, and over the weekend posted a photo of himself waiting on the side of a road while a flat tire was repaired.

According to the president, the luxurious plane has no place in a country that is struggling with such high levels of poverty.

“Luxury planes have nothing to do with the reality of poverty that exists in our country,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference. “It’s an expression of two worlds: the world of the people and the world of the rulers.” “The officials felt like kings, they were like a … monarchy with lives full of luxury and privilege,” he added.

The Mexican government did receive offers.

The government said it had received two offers above value for the aircraft, which a promotional brochure dubbed the “pride of a nation” alongside photos of its marble bathroom, king-size bed and plush seats for 80 passengers.

However, Lopez Obrador said the potential buyers were unable to secure financing and the deals fell through.

“We want to resolve this already,” he said. “The longer we have this fleet, the more it costs us.” The plane’s storage and upkeep in California had cost Mexico some 30 million pesos ($1.60 million), the president said. The plane was in California to be exhibited for potential buyers and to undergo maintenance work, he said.

The president has also forbidden his cabinet from taking trips in government-owned executive jets.

And on Tuesday he also announced a series of auctions that will sell off a total of 39 government-owned helicopters and 33 executive jets and small planes. The government is offering 19 planes and nine helicopters for sale in a first round of auctions, which it hopes will raise over $1 billion. Most of the aircraft in the first lot were used by the army, navy and president’s office.

Critics wonder whether there will be enough vehicles to use for key governmental efforts.

Many of the planes to auctioned off in later rounds belonged to the Attorney General’s Office, raising the question of whether the sales could threaten key governmental tasks like law enforcement in drug detection and eradication programs. López Obrador said there would still be enough aircraft to carry out needed tasks in disasters and emergencies.

In the end, the jet might be traded for equipment needed by the government.

According to The New York Times, Lopez Obrador said there had been discussions with the United States about a possible sale via payment in exchange for X-ray machines, ambulances and other medical equipment.

Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

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Mexican Security Forces Just Killed La Catrina – One Of Mexico’s Most Famous Cartel Leaders And Not Everyone Approves

@MarinaNacionalMX / Twitter

The cartel wars in Mexico have produced their fair share of larger-than-life characters and stories of success and terrible failure that have to be read to be believed. Such is the case of La Catrina, a hitwoman for the vicious Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), which after the demise of Los Zetas and considered the somewhat diminished capacities of the Sinaloa Cartel has surged as the most powerful and violent drug trafficking organization in the world. As Post Media News reminds us, the CJNG is perhaps one of the most complex global players in trafficking, and “responsible for trafficking many tons of cocaine, methamphetamine and fentanyl-laced heroin into the United States, as well as for violence and significant loss of life in Mexico. The cartel is said to operate in 75 per cent of Mexican states, and to have operations in Europe, Asia and Australia as well as across the Americas”. Its leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes “El Mencho” is one of the most wanted criminals in the world. 

Among its ranks, the CJNG has had some female dealers and killers. Among them, the most legendary and powerful was a young woman of vicious looks, a killing fashionista by the moniker of La Catrina. She was only 21-years-old, but was known for her savage methods.  Her real name:  María Guadalupe López Esquivel. As CE Noticias Financieras reminds us, she was born and raised in one of the most violent regions of the country: “Although she was born in Buenavista, María Guadalupe was taken to live in Tepalcatepec, where she attended primary school, counted by settlers from that municipality of Tierra Caliente”. 

La Catrina was a sicaria and led a group of assassins who were accused of ambushing a police convoy.

La Catrina committed the ultimate crime in the world of the Mexican cartel wars: she and her sicarios ambushed a police convoy and ended the lives of 13 officers in the much disputed state of Michoacan. She then became a prime target for the army and the newly formed Guardia Nacional. La Catrina was infamous for her bloody methods and cruelness. 

She got into the cartel when she fell in love with one of its most powerful members.

As often happens, she was led into a life of crime out of love, as she started dating one of the cartel strongmen. As news.com.au reports: “It is believed that La Catrina joined the CJNG in 2017, having fallen in love with another leader, Miguel “El M2” Fernandez. She rose rapidly through the ranks under El M2, living a glamorous lifestyle within the cartel. When she died she was in charge of paying fellow criminals and lead assassinations, extortion and kidnappings”. She often flaunted her lavish lifestyle on social media, posing in designer clothes and holding weapons made out of pure gold. 

An online bodycam video shows the moment when security forces found her gasping for air as a river of blood emanated from her neck.

The video is a gruesome reminder of the consequences that individuals who decide to dedicate their lives to crime might ultimately face. As the camera approaches we can see a young woman dressed in sweatpants and what seems to be a hoodie sitting on the floor. She is gasping for air and the sound is chilling, a premonition of certain death. The soldier tells her “hang on, mija, we are waiting for a helicopter to take you.”

But as luck would have it, it was way to late and the sad legend of La Catrina was born. It was a moment that will perhaps be turned into a movie scene someday, as Post Media News reports: “An amateur tourniquet draped around her neck, she can be seen sitting slumped in the dust beside a wall, blood dripping from her hand and neck as she gasps for breath. Glancing up at the officer approaching her, she seems resigned to her fate.”

She died while arrested, as a helicopter was trying to take her to hospital.

The mission in which La Catrina was killed and six other cartel members were captured involved state trooperes, state police and the National Guard. It all happened in a village called La Bocanada in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán, a territory known for the cruel disputes among cartels. They were found in a safe house after a tip led the authorities to capture one of the CJNG’s biggest fish.

La Catrina’s death is a big step, at least in terms of media reach, for the AMLO government, which has failed to reign in the cartels and has so far been unsuccessful in curbing violence and killings in the country. 2019 was the bloodiest year to date in modern Mexican history and the government seems to be at the mercy of the cartels.