Cuauhtémoc Blanco, pictured here with Mexico's presidential candidate, now President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, during a MORENA party campaign rally on June 16, 2018 ahead of the upcoming July 1 election. Blanco has been tied to organized crime again. Photo: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images.
MEXICO CITY — A former Mexican soccer star turned state governor, Cuauhtémoc Blanco, is facing renewed accusations of being connected to drug cartel members in leaked military documents. The documents reportedly not only mention Blanco, but also members of his inner circle, and other politicians and government officials throughout the state of Morelos, where he governs.
In January, a local newspaper in Morelos published a photo of Blanco posing arm-in-arm with three alleged drug cartel bosses. At the time, Blanco denied having any connection to the men and claimed that as a former pro athlete, taking photos with strangers was a regular occurrence, and “because I’m such a good guy, I take photos with everyone.”Without a doubt, Blanco is one of the most celebrated soccer players in Mexican history. Blanco represented Mexico internationally off and on for nearly 20 years in the Olympics, the World Cup, and other competitions, scoring the third-most goals in the national team’s history. He also played 15 years for arguably Mexico’s most popular local team—América—and spent a couple years playing in Major League Soccer (MLS) for the Chicago Fire.After retiring from soccer, Blanco immediately entered politics, and was elected as the municipal president of the state capital of Cuernavaca in 2016. Two years later, Blanco was elected state governor after running a campaign based on lowering violence and clamping down on corruption.But the release of the photo with cartel members in January was a black eye on his reputation, and that just got much worse.
In late September, a hacktivist group named Guacamaya released roughly 4 million confidential documents and communications from Mexico’s Defense Ministry. The leaks contained everything from proof that the military had sold grenades and tactical equipment to drug cartels, to personal information about the health of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.Several documents reportedly took aim at the military’s investigations of government officials in Morelos.
One document, cited by Mexican newspaper El Universal, is an intelligence report sent on May 14, 2019, which provided new insights to the accusations against Blanco.Although the photo was released nine months ago, it is believed to have been taken in January or February 2019 shortly after he entered office. One of the men in the photo is Raymundo Isidro Castro Salgado, alias El Ray, a local boss for the Guerreros Unidos cartel.The document reportedly alleges that El Ray could operate with “absolute impunity” in the state in return for supporting Blanco’s election campaign and not “heating up the plaza”—a term that means increasing violence in the region. El Ray was arrested the same month that the intelligence document was sent in the neighboring state of Puebla. He was murdered in a prison riot a few months later, in August 2019.
El Universal also reported that the information in the document came from intelligence given privately by another Guerreros Unidos boss, Irvin Solano, alias El Profe. El Profe is the second man in the photo, along with Blanco and El Ray. El Profe was arrested by the Mexican army in February 2021 and is currently incarcerated. The third man in the photo, Homero Figuera, aka La Tripa or El Simpson, remains at large.Another set of documents in the leak focused on various members of Blanco’s government and other local politicians around the state. The documents, published by Aristegui Noticias, mentioned allegations of cartel collusion against at least two members of Blanco’s cabinet, a senator, 18 mayors, two local deputies, and the state attorney general: Uriel Carmona.
Carmona gave an interview to Aristegui Noticias on Monday to address the accusations and denied having connections to drug cartels. He alleged that the accusations actually came from someone within Blanco’s government. While he didn’t specifically allege retribution, Carmona went on to confirm that his office has an open investigation regarding Blanco’s involvement with organized crime, which began after the release of the photo in January. He did not provide additional information about the status of the investigation.Blanco also answered questions regarding the government leaks after an event on Monday and denied the allegations. He said that he was a person of “principle and values” and had never made a “pact” with any criminal group. He said he welcomed any investigation and that “if any official is involved, I’m not going to defend them.”“He who did nothing, has nothing to fear,” he said defiantly. “And that goes for me as well. Investigate me.”