By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Over the weekend, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) paid a visit to the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa, home of infamous drug lord and founder of the Sinaloa Cartel Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, currently in a U.S. high-security prison on 17 counts of homicide, drug trafficking, conspiracy, organized crime against health, money laundering, homicide and the illegal possession of firearms.
As far back at the early 1960s, Sinaloa, along with parts of the adjoining states of Chihuahua and Durango, became the birthplace of Mexico’s illicit drug trade, producing even then 74 percent of the marijuana and opium entering the United States illegally.
And by the time El Chapo came to power in the late 1980s, the state was considered to be the stronghold of all organized criminal activities in the country, a reputation that it has continued to maintain to this day.
So extensive is the dominance of organized crime and drug dealing in the region that it has won the dubious mokiner of Mexico’s Golden Triangle, and even with El Chapo supposedly out of the picture (his authoritarian reach is believed to extend well beyond the walls of his current confinement) and a series of turf wars with the likes of the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG), the Sinaloa Cartel is still considered to be the most powerful cartel in the country.
According to some accounts, as much as 40 percent of the state is under the direct rule of drug lords, and most outside analysts believe that the current Mexican government is receiving financial kickbacks for its indirect (or possibly even direct) involvement in the Sinaloa Cartel’s $3 billion-a-year business.
In his three and a half years in office, AMLO — father of the “hugs-not-bullets” approach to crime control — has done absolutely nothing to curb the criminal activity in the state.
Moreover, in March 2020, AMLO famously went out of his way to meet up with María Consuelo Loera, the mother of El Chapo, and kiss her hand in Badiraguato, Sinaloa –after having earlier in the day callously refusing to even acknowledge a group of mothers of some of Mexico’s 100,000 missing and disappeared persons demanding to speak with him in front of the National Palace — and later describing “Doña María Consuelo” as a “lovely woman worthy of his respect.”
Under AMLO’s watch, violent crime has increased and the cartels have gained territory and influence.
Without any threat of persecution and a carte blanche invitation from the president to continue their activities without fear of retribution, organized crime under López Obrador has gone forth and multiplied, now in full control of about 20 percent of Mexico’s nearly 2 million square kilometers of territory, according to a recent CIA report.
So it was little wonder that a bus of news reporters covering AMLO’s tour of Sinaloa on Saturday, May 28, was pulled over and interrogated (some of the reporters claim threatened) by a group of armed men — this when already at least 11 Mexican journalists have been gunned down so far this year.
And AMLO’s reaction: “No pasó nada (“Nothing happened),” he replied when asked about the incident later that day, shrugging it off as an insignificant incident.
Nothing the president has done has curbed the violence and audacity of organized crime in Sinaloa (or anywhere else in the country, for that matter).
And López Obrador has done nothing to implement the rule of law in the state.
There is no Army, Navy or National Guard presence in the region, where the cartels reign supreme, setting up their own paramilitary inspection points and doling out rewards and punishments to the local residents as they see fit, all with an approving wink from the president.
Even the state governor, Rubén Rocha Moya, who took office in November under the banner of the president’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, has not bothered to set foot in the cartel-controlled sections of Sinaloa.
“No pása nada” in those areas because AMLO and his gang of political thugs simply turn a blind eye to the crimes of the local cartels.
But it was not enough for López Obrador to dismiss the five to 10 minutes of sheer terror the reporters must endured while their cameras and equipment was inspected and they were interrogated by the armed-to-the-teeth cartel militants.
Instead, AMLO added insult to injury to the reporters’ trauma, declaring that the state had been “unjustly” proclaimed the Golden Triangle since he seems to be oblivious of what happens there on a daily basis, or at least, prefers not to see it.
And so, he said, from that day forward, the region — the most violent in the nation — would be known as the “Triangle of Good and Hardworking People.”
“Hardworking” in promoting crime and “good” for his government, where lining his pockets with ill-gained money has always been a priority over defending the interests of the Mexican people.