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The president shakes hands with the mother of ex-cartel kingpin El Chapo Guzmán. The president shakes hands with the mother of ex-cartel kingpin El Chapo Guzmán.

Narco-state accusation ‘irresponsible,’ hurts Mexico’s international image

López Obrador continues trading barbs with former president Calderón

Whether Mexico is a narco-state or not, some analysts worry that the latest tiff between President López Obrador and former president Felipe Calderón will cast Mexico in a poor light, tarnishing its image internationally.

López Obrador accused Calderón on Monday of presiding over a “narco-state” during his 2006-2012 administration, claiming that the government had been taken over by organized crime. 

Now, analysts are worried about the impact of the war of words, which continued on Tuesday.

Francisco Valdés Ugalde, a political scientist and researcher at the National Autonomous University’s Institute of Social Research, said that unless López Obrador can prove his statement accusing the Calderón administration of protecting criminal gangs, “it is not a responsible statement to make in front of the country.”

It affects Mexico’s image, he said, and having accused a former president of directing a narco-state, López Obrador must now prove that to have been the case. He also pointed out that the comments must be considered within the context of the run-up to next year’s midterm elections.

Political analyst and consultant Alfonso Zárate Flores described the dispute as “bitter and acidic” and echoed Valdés that it would be bad for the country’s image.

Expressing surprise that López Obrador didn’t go after Enrique Peña Nieto instead, he said: “I don’t remember such bitter and acidic comments, nor such a grave and serious accusation. There is enormous resentment by López Obrador.” 

Calderón denied the narco-state charge and countered by saying he had never reached out to shake the hand of a drug lord’s mother.

“They can criticize me for many things, but I am not the president who goes around greeting El Chapo’s mother. I did not release any criminal. I was the president of the government that has extradited the most criminals to face justice in the United States,” he retorted, referring to the president’s controversial greeting of imprisoned cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s mother in March, and his release of the cartel leader’s son from custody last fall after his arrest spawned an outbreak of cartel violence.

López Obrador carried on Tuesday morning, saying he wouldn’t hesitate to greet Guzmán’s mother again if he saw her, and defending the release of Ovidio Guzmán on the grounds that he saved “hundreds of people’s lives” by doing so.

Zárate said that earlier in his political career, López Obrador’s favorite political villain was former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, but after losing the 2006 election and the allegations of electoral fraud, the president has been focused on Calderón.  

“I believe that the president has an obsession with Felipe Calderón. He cannot find another way to retaliate for the defeat of 2006,” Zárate said.

Source: Reforma (sp), El Universal (sp)

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