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Mexico's President strikes back on allegations of his close circle having cartel ties

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The president of Mexico is batting back serious accusations that those close to him have ties to the country's drug cartels. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports the accusations are contained in back to back reports by ProPublica, The New York Times and others.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: This morning, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador responded live on television to a detailed email from a New York Times reporter. The Times was about to drop a story citing unnamed U.S. officials saying the DEA had heard from several informants that people close to Lopez Obrador had received vast sums of money from cartels. One informant, The Times reports, intimated that the cartels had videos of the president's sons picking up drug money.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "All of that is false," the president said, "totally false." In its report, The Times says the U.S. never opened a formal investigation, and they decided to abandon it altogether as to not probe one of the United States' most important allies. President Lopez Obrador chuckled at the suggestion.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "In other words, they feared us," he said, "because Mexico is to be respected." Last month ProPublica, InSight Crime and Deutsche Welle released reports that alleged the president's campaign aides had received around $2 million from cartels in 2006, with the promise that Lopez Obrador would rule in their favor if he was elected. These stories come just as Mexico's presidential campaign gets underway. Lopez Obrador's party is leading in the polls, so the accusations have been prime campaign fodder for his rivals.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDS TWEETING)

PERALTA: But on the streets of Mexico City, all we find are shrugs.

JOSE LUIS ORTEGA: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "At one point or another, we hear the same about every president," says Jose Luis Ortega, who is 64.

RADICA LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: Radica Lopez, a 24-year-old architect, says this doesn't surprise her because she assumed the drug cartels had been active in Mexican politics for many years. It's the same for the president's party and for the opposition, she says. It's depressing being a Mexican voter.

LOPEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

PERALTA: "We simply don't have a representative who identifies with us," she says, "or who has our principles." Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Mexico City. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is an international correspondent for NPR. He was named NPR's Mexico City correspondent in 2022. Before that, he was based in Cape Town, South Africa. He started his journalism career as a pop music critic and after a few newspaper stints, he joined NPR in 2008.