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U.S. found financial ties between Sinaloa Cartel and López Obrador campaigns, say new bombshell reports

Three journalistic agencies made the shocking claim, reporting that U.S. federal agents and prosecutors found that the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel contributed between $2-4 million to López Obrador’s 2006 campaign

Ceremony celebrating newly elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on December 01, 2018 in Mexico City
Ceremony celebrating newly elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on December 01, 2018 in Mexico City | Shutterstock

February 7, 2024 9:00am

Updated: February 7, 2024 4:28pm

An investigation conducted between 2010 and 2011 by the DEA in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) suggests that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador received funds from the Sinaloa Cartel during his 2006 presidential campaign.

Three agencies, including Deutsche Welle, InSight Crime and ProPublica made the shocking claims in a recent articles, reporting that U.S. federal agents and prosecutors found that the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel contributed between $2-4 million to López Obrador’s 2006 campaign.

The bombshell accusations come after López Obrador has tried to link his former 2006 rival, conservative President Felipe Calderón,to the illicit actions of former Attorney General Genaro Luna Garcia, who tried and was convicted last year in the United States for receiving bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.

They also come just four months after the Mexican president hosted Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a high led delegation of U.S. officials in which the American government thanked López Obrador for his efforts to help extradite drug kingpin Ovidio Guzmán López.

A statement released by the U.S. Department of State described the meeting positively and said that it was emblematic of the two counties “continued cooperation grounded in our shared respect for the rule of law.”

López Obrador blasted the reports, saying the State Department was leading a media conspiracy against him.

“In the case of the United States, the State Department and the agencies have a lot of influence in the management of media, and also here, but there is no proof. They are vile slanderers, although they are rewarded as good journalists,” he told journalists.

López Obrador was not successfully elected until 2018. In 2006, the left leaning MORENA (National Regeneration Movement) presidential candidate narrowly lost by a margin of less than 1% to the more conservative candidate, Felipe Calderón.

The reports allege that the SDNY USAO compiled audio recordings of conversations between the Sinaloa Cartel and members of López Obrador’s inner circle depicting the channeling of money to López Obrador’s campaign.

The reports also assert that the U.S. determined that Alfredo Beltran Leyva, a drug trafficker extradited to the U.S. in 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment orchestrated the operation and supplied the funds for López Obrador’s campaign.

ProPublica and InSight Crime both say their stories are based information from more than a dozen interviews conducted with U.S. and Mexican officials as well as government documents.

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández reported in Deutsche Welle that she sourced her information through two individuals who were at actual meetings between the López Obrador team and the Sinaloa Cartel.

Hernández reported that “the criminal organization requested protection and the right to participate in the appointment of the attorney general of the Republic if López Obrador won the election.”

U.S. authorities reportedly identified the involvement of notable Sinaloa Cartel figures in their investigation.

These included cartel lieutenant Roberto Acosta Islas, reputed drug trafficker Edgar Valdez Villarreal, and Roberto Lopez Najera, who purportedly facilitated payments to Mexican authorities.

The investigation also identified four individuals close to López Obrador.

This included Mauricio Soto Caballero, a MORENA member of the Mexican Congress who assisted AMLO in 2006, 2012, and 2018. Another was Nicolás Mollinedo, AMLO's driver from 2000 to 2014.

The investigations claim that Soto Caballero was the individual who received funds from the Sinaloa Cartel and directed them into López Obrador’s campaign.

The other two individuals implicated were businessmen Francisco León García and Emilio Dipp Jones.

León García, the owner of marble mines, “went missing” in March 2007. Dipp Jones allegedly attended the initial meeting where it was decided that the Sinaloa Cartel would back López Obrador’s campaign.

Hernández alleges that during the undisclosed first meeting, it was agreed that the cartel would contribute $2 million to López Obrador’s campaign. She says the second meeting took place in Mexico City at a residence on 131 Aristóteles Street, in the Polanco neighborhood, where López Nájera, Soto Caballero, Dipp Jones, and León García were all present.

U.S. federal agents and prosecutors determined that cash deliveries took place at the Aristotle Street location during the 2006 presidential campaign.

Hernández's report was released several months after López Obrador accused the DEA of conducting “an abusive and arrogant interference” in Mexico, accusing U.S. authorities of violating Mexico’s sovereignty by targeting the Sinaloa Cartel without the authorization from his administration.

“This is not a DEA matter. This has to do with the State Department. And the same thing happens with the Department of Justice of the United States because they have to bring order. Everything is still very loose,” López Obrador said at the time.