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    The United States investigated accusations of connections between drug cartels and associates of Mexico’s President.

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    American law enforcement officials spent several years investigating allegations that allies of Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, engaged in meetings with and received millions of dollars from drug cartels after he assumed office, according to U.S. records and three individuals with knowledge of the matter.

    The previously undisclosed inquiry revealed information suggesting potential connections between influential cartel figures and Mexican advisers and officials close to the president during his tenure. However, a formal investigation into Mr. López Obrador was never initiated by the United States, and the involved officials ultimately halted the inquiry. They determined that the U.S. government had limited interest in pursuing allegations against the leader of a key American ally, as per the three individuals familiar with the case who were not authorized to speak publicly.

    In response to questions from The New York Times on Thursday, Mr. López Obrador dismissed the allegations as “completely false.” He stated that the news of the inquiry would not impact Mexico’s relationship with the United States but expected a response from the U.S. government. During a regular news conference, he remarked, “Does this diminish the trust the Mexican government has in the United States? Time will tell.”

    While drug cartels have a history of infiltrating the Mexican state at various levels, the recent U.S. efforts identified potential ties between the cartels and associates of Mr. López Obrador. Notably, no direct connections between the president himself and criminal organizations were found.

    A Justice Department spokesperson clarified, “There is no investigation into President López Obrador,” emphasizing the department’s responsibility to review any allegations. The information gathered by U.S. officials relied on informants, whose accounts can be challenging to corroborate and occasionally prove inaccurate. Investigators, looking into cartel activities, were told by one informant that a close confidant of Mr. López Obrador met with Ismael Zambada García, a top leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, before the 2018 presidential election victory.

    Another source claimed that, post-election, a founder of the Zetas cartel paid $4 million to two of Mr. López Obrador’s associates in the hope of securing release from prison. Additionally, a third source suggested that drug cartels possessed videos of the president’s sons handling drug money. Mr. López Obrador vehemently denied all allegations made by the informants.

    Furthermore, U.S. law enforcement officers independently traced payments from individuals believed to be cartel operatives to intermediaries for Mr. López Obrador, according to two sources familiar with the inquiry.

    Source: nytimes.com

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