Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is attracting widespread criticism for visiting the hometown of one of the country’s most notorious drug lords and shaking hands with his mother.
López Obrador — a populist leftist leader who has faced attacks by political opponents for his purportedly soft approach to drug crime — visited the town of Badiraguato, Sinaloa on Sunday to supervise public works projects in the area. While there, he gave a friendly greeting to the mother of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, a former ruthless drug lord who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S.
Despite previously lamenting over the fact that he cannot embrace supporters during the coronavirus epidemic, he appeared to make an exception on Sunday.
“Don’t get out,” the president tell the 91-year-old mother, and then saying: “I got your letter.”
El Chapo’s mother wishes to visit her narco son in prison, and López Obrador has said he is working to make that happen. Others also noted that the president’s visit came on the same day of the 30th birthday of El Chapo’s son, Ovidio Guzmán López.
The interaction went viral online and immediately garnered condemnation among Mexicans.
“You must urgently explain your connection to this family,” tweeted Marko Cortés, a political opposition leader, who added that the meeting was an insult to the victims of Mexican cartels and the law enforcement community trying to fight them.
Others noted that the greeting was also irresponsible because it broke social distancing protocol while COVID-19 cases are climbing in Mexico. The country’s deputy health minister the day prior ordered citizens to not leave their homes in order to stop the spread of the virus.
“Mexican President Lopez Obrador is doing himself no favors. He just seemed to be getting serious on coronavirus when today, a video emerges of him in Sinaloa, shaking hands with the mother of jailed drug lord El Chapo,” tweeted Mexican-based journalist Ioan Grillo.
El Chapo’s mother, Consuelo Loera, is at an advanced age and has pleaded with the Mexican government to let her visit her son before she dies. During a Monday press conference, the president has said he sympathizes with her request and has already begun the paperwork to make such a visit happen.
“I think that for humanitarian reasons she should be allowed to go,” López Obrador said. “She’s an elderly person and she has all of my respect regardless of who her son is.”
El Chapo, who previously led the massive Sinaloa Cartel, was sentenced to life in prison for his crimes. He is now serving his time in a supermax prison in Colorado.
While El Chapo may be out of the scene, his drug empire still lives on. The Sinaloa Cartel is reportedly being run, at least in part, by his sons. In October 2019, Mexican forces had captured one of El Chapo’s sons, Ovidio Guzmán. However, law enforcement was immediately surrounded and shellacked by the gunmen loyal to the Sinaloa Cartel, and authorities were utliatemly forced to hand Ovidio Guzmán back to them.
Since coming to power, López Obrador has waged a “hugs, not bullets” campaign against cartels, arguing that a better economy will better stop crime in the country than a war on drugs.
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