Things That Matter

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).

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Mexican President Criticizes DEA For Role In Former Army Chief’s Arrest

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Mexican President Criticizes DEA For Role In Former Army Chief’s Arrest

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized the historic role of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico after a former Mexican army chief was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles on drug charges at the request of the DEA.

The former Mexican Defense Minister was arrested by the DEA on drug charges.

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepedas was the secretary of National Defense in the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018. President Lopez Obrador claims that the arrest is proof of corruption from past governments.

President Lopez Obrador used the arrest to criticize the U.S. government and the DEA.

President Lopez Obrador, speaking at a press conference in Oaxaca, claimed that there is a double standard. While Cienfuegos Zepedas has been arrested by the DEA, the president claims U.S. officials have not been held accountable for trafficking arms into Mexico to track them to the cartels. According to the president, Mexican officials are being held at a higher and harsher standard than U.S. officials.

“Why is it that it’s just the people in Mexico who took part in these acts being accused or implicated, and (the DEA) aren’t criticizing themselves, reflecting on the meddling by all these agencies in Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said at the press conference. “They came into the country with complete freedom, they did whatever they wanted.”

The former defense minister’s arrest sent shockwaves through Mexico.

Cienfuegos Zepedas was the first high-ranking Mexican military official to be arrested in the U.S. with drug-related corruption. He was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport and will be facing drug and money-laundering charges. It’s been less than a year since Genaro Garcia Luna was charged with taking bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

President Lopez Obrador wants to protect the military’s reputation.

Lopez Obrador also said he hopes that the armed forces aren’t blamed for this scandal and that Mexico must take care of institutions as important as the Secretary of National Defense. Mexico does not currently have an ongoing investigation of the retired general and will await the result of the U.S. investigation, according to the president of Mexico. 

Cienfuegos Zepedas is due to make a court appearance related to four charges in California on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

READ: This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

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This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

Things That Matter

This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

Massimo Valicchia / Getty Images

As Mexico prepares to mark the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO) is demanding a formal apology from the Catholic Church for its role in the violent colonization of his country.

It’s no secret that the Catholic Church played a major part in the deaths of millions of Indigenous peoples across the Americas, as the church supported Spain’s conquest of the region. The church built missions throughout the country and often forcibly converted Indigenous people to Christianity.

Now, Mexico’s AMLO wants the church to right its wrongs with a formal apology and the return of several Mexican artifacts that are currently in the hands of the church.

Mexico’s President AMLO has asked Pope Francis for a formal apology for the atrocities committed by the church.

Mexico’s president has published an open letter to Pope Francis calling on the Roman Catholic Church to apologize for abuses of Indigenous peoples during the conquest of Mexico in the 1500s.

“The Catholic Church, the Spanish monarchy and the Mexican government should make a public apology for the offensive atrocities that Indigenous people suffered,” the letter states.

The letter was delivered to the pope by AMLO’s wife, Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, who met with him at the Vatican following a meeting she had on Friday with Italian president, Sergio Mattarella.

In addition to an apology, AMLO asked the Pope to make a statement in favor of Miguel Hidalgo, Mexico’s 19th-century independence leader who was once believed to have been excommunicated by the church for his involvement in the uprising. However, researchers later said it appeared that Hidalgo had confessed his sins before he was executed and thus was not excommunicated.

AMLO said: “I think it would be an act of humility and at the same time greatness” for the church to reconcile posthumously with Hidalgo.

The letter comes as Mexico struggles with how to mark the 500th anniversary of the 1519-1521 conquest, which resulted in the death of a large part of the country’s pre-Hispanic population. In fact, the letter came the same day that authorities in Mexico City removed a statue dedicated to Christopher Columbus that protesters had threatened to knock down.

So what exactly is in the letter and what does AMLO want from the Vatican?

Besides the formal apology, President AMLO also asked that the Vatican return to MExico three codices, including the Codex Borgia – an especially colourful screen-fold book spread across dozens of pages that depicts gods and rituals from ancient central Mexico.

It is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-conquest Aztec-style writing that exists, after Catholic authorities in colonial-era Mexico dismissed such codices as the work of the devil and ordered hundreds or even thousands of them burned in the decades following the 1521 conquest.

The president is also hoping the Vatican will return ancient maps of the city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City) that were taken amid the conquest of the city. AMLO hopes to exhibit the three codices and ancient maps for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Spaniards.

This isn’t the first time that AMLO has demanded apologies from foreign governments.

In 2019, López Obrador asked Spain for an apology for the conquest, in which millions of Indigenous people died from violence and disease. However, the Spanish government completely rejected the request saying at the time that Spain “will not issue these apologies that have been requested.”

The Catholic church played a key role as Spain colonized the Americas and spread its empire, setting up missions to convert Indigenous people to Christianity, often through violence and coercion.

Although the Vatican hasn’t yet apologized to Mexico for its part in the conquest, the Pope has done so in the past. In fact, in 2015, Pope Francis apologized to Bolivia over the church’s role in oppression in Latin America during the Spanish colonial era.

So far, the Vatican hasn’t yet responded to AMLO’s request, however, it’s museums and archives have often lent out various manuscripts and works of art after similar requests from other countries.

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