Thursday, May 30, 2024

Heavily armed men control traffic into heart of Sinaloa Cartel territory

President López Obrador has denied that organized crime controls territory in Sinaloa and other parts of the country after armed men set up a roadblock on a highway over which he flew last Friday.

From the vantage point of a helicopter during a tour of northern Mexico, López Obrador inspected the new highway that connects the Sinaloa municipality of Badiraguato – the birthplace of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán – to Guadalupe y Calvo, Chihuahua.

Reporters and officials that traveled overland to an event the president held in the latter municipality encountered a checkpoint manned by approximately 10 heavily armed men. The presumed cartel henchmen questioned the journalists and officials before allowing them to pass the blockade, which was set up half an hour from the community of La Tuna, where El Chapo was born and his mother still lives.

Asked on Saturday about the presence of armed men on the highway, López Obrador said that fortunately nothing sinister occurred. He conceded that the encounter was a frightening experience for the reporters and officials but reiterated that they ultimately had no problem.

Speaking to journalists after a visit to the Picachos dam in southern Sinaloa, López Obrador said there are people in some parts of the country – “not just Sinaloa” – who think that they must “take care of a region” by stopping vehicles and ensuring that weapons aren’t brought in.

“Sometimes there is confusion but in general everything is OK,” he said, although he conceded that the presence of armed men with military-style equipment in states such as Sinaloa and Jalisco wasn’t a good thing.

Asked whether criminal groups have taken control of some regions of Sinaloa, the president responded that that was the view of the “conservatives,” a term he frequently uses to describe both his current political opponents and members of past “neoliberal” governments.

“That’s what the conservatives say … but don’t believe them,” he said before rejecting the suggestion that criminal groups control other parts of the country.

"No pasa nada”: AMLO minimiza retén con hombres armados en Badiraguato
In footage from the press van, armed men can be seen walking around the vehicle and eventually, unblocking the road to let the reporters pass.

“No, no, no, no, that’s what the conservatives think. I’m not Felipe Calderón,” López Obrador said, referring to the former president.

He subsequently asserted that his government is free of people of the ilk of Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s security minister who was arrested in the United States in 2019 on charges of taking bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.

In 2020, López Obrador used the charges faced by García Luna – who remains imprisoned awaiting trial in the U.S. – to support a claim that Mexico was a narco-state under Calderón, who was president between 2006 and 2012.

Early last year, the president rejected a United States government claim that criminal organizations control “ungoverned areas” that account for about one-third of Mexico’s territory.

He said Saturday that he felt safe in Sinaloa, a sensation perhaps generated, at least in part, by his use of a helicopter rather than a car to traverse the Golden Triangle, a notoriously lawless region of northern Mexico where opium poppies and marijuana are grown.

The president said at his Guadalupe y Calvo event – at which he primarily spoke about the benefits of the government’s tree-planting employment scheme Sowing Life – that he didn’t like the name Golden Triangle and that the region should be renamed the “Triangle of Good and Hard Working People” or “the region of good neighbors, or something like that.”

“We have to change … [the name] because there’s a lot of goodness here … and we shouldn’t stigmatize any area,” López Obrador said.

With reports from Reforma and Milenio

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