Monday, June 24, 2024

AMLO to citizens: “Don’t be manipulated” by cartels

President López Obrador has warned Mexican citizens not to be “manipulated” into protecting drug cartels after footage emerged of cartel members distributing Christmas gifts in Guadalajara.

A video circulated on social media appears to show gang members associated with Ricardo Ruiz — a local leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) known as “RR” or “El Tripa” — delivering toys from a vehicle in the El Retiro neighborhood on Christmas Eve.

“They are using people,” AMLO said when asked about it at his morning conference. “I’ll take the opportunity to say it so that people don’t allow themselves to be manipulated… even if [the cartel members] give them groceries, that is not in good faith; it is to use the population as a shield.”

AMLO said that cartels use such tactics to build social support within their territories, which they hope will lead to early tip-offs by locals about police operations and will instigate protests against unfavorable policies.

Residents of Guadalajara’s El Retiro neighborhood wait in line on Christmas Eve for alleged cartel members to hand out gifts. 


The phenomenon has a long history in Mexico: the Sinaloa Cartel has invested in local social services; the Gulf Cartel has organized community parties; and the CJNG has given out food and toys on previous occasions. Various criminal groups also distributed handouts during the coronavirus pandemic, although AMLO argued that the phenomenon has lessened during his administration.

“At the beginning of my government, it was notorious, in the public domain, that the criminal gangs relied a lot on their social bases, on the people of the communities [to whom] they delivered groceries, merchandise, toys,” he said. “All this has been disappearing.”

Yet he also suggested that the phenomenon is now reactivating, as cartels are seeking to manipulate the population into protesting against the National Guard.

Throughout his presidency, AMLO has championed the National Guard as a necessary bulwark against cartels and sought to minimize critiques of the militarized force’s impact on local communities and human rights.

“[The cartels] don’t want us to establish National Guard barracks, which we only have now in Jalisco, where there are apparently spontaneous demonstrations [by local people] saying they don’t want the National Guard,” he said.

“It happened to us in Chihuahua,” the president said. “We still have something like that in Michoacán.”

Mexico's defunct Federal Police force, disbanded in 2019.
The defunct Federal Police (PF) force was replaced by the National Guard in 2019, only a decade after the PF was created. (Photo: Government of Mexico)

“The Federal Police didn’t have barracks; it was a complete mess,” he added. “Moreover, they ended up protecting the gangs, so now there is more presence of the National Guard.”

With reports from Expansión Política and Reforma

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