Years before Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected as Mexico’s leader in 2018, U.S. drug-enforcement agents uncovered what they believed was substantial evidence that major cocaine traffickers had funneled some US$2 million to his first presidential campaign.
According to more than a dozen interviews with U.S. and Mexican officials and government documents reviewed by ProPublica, the money was provided to campaign aides in 2006 in return for a promise that a López Obrador administration would facilitate the traffickers’ criminal operations.
The investigation did not establish whether López Obrador sanctioned or even knew of the traffickers’ reported donations. But officials said the inquiry — which was built on the extensive cooperation of a former campaign operative and a key drug informant — did produce evidence that one of López Obrador’s closest aides had agreed to the proposed arrangement.
The allegation that representatives of Mexico’s future president negotiated with notorious criminals has continued to reverberate among U.S. law-enforcement and foreign policy officials, who have long been skeptical of López Obrador’s commitment to take on drug traffickers.