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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has come under fire for visiting the mother of Mexico’s most well-known drug lord over the weekend, at the same time the government is pleading with its citizens to stay indoors amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lopez Obrador visited Badiraguato, Sinaloa, the birthplace of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, on Sunday, less than a day after the country’s health minister urged people to not leave their homes.
A video that has gone viral shows the leftist president shaking hands with El Chapo’s elderly mother, María Consuelo Loera Pérez, as she sat in her car.
“Don’t get out,” he told the 92-year-old woman after he shakes her hand. “I got your letter.”
He was also seen talking to Guzman’s lawyer, Jose Luis Gonzalez Meza.
Guzman formerly ran the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, which smuggled tons of drugs into the United States, fueled the endemic corruption that has plagued almost every aspect of Mexican society and unleashed a wave of violence that resulted in thousands of deaths.
Sinaloa cartel gunmen and Mexican armed forces exchanged gunfire in the state capital of Culiacan last year after the capture of Ovidio Guzmán López, El Chapo’s son. The younger Guzman was eventually released by out-gunned government forces who retreated to avoided further bloodshed.
When questioned about Sunday’s visit, Lopez Obrador blamed “adversaries” for trying to make a “scandal” out of it, according to Reuters.
“Sometimes, because it’s my job, I have to shake hands with white-collar criminals who haven’t even lost their respectability, how am I not going to greet an old lady who leaves her hand outstretched?” he told reporters during a Monday press conference in Mexico City.
Many Mexican health officials have pleaded for more action from Lopez Obrador to combat the virus. Many have criticized him for taking a relaxed approach as COVID-19 continues to ravage other nations.
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He said Loera Pérez wrote to him asking for help in getting permission from the U.S. to visit her son in a Colorado prison known as “the Alcatraz of the Rockies” where he is serving a life sentence for a variety of crimes,
“This depends on the United States government, the U.S. embassy. I believe that for humanitarian reasons she should be allowed to go with caregivers, sanitarians, doctors,” he said.