A Mexican football icon has entered politics.  Prosecutors say narcos stalked

A Mexican football icon has entered politics. Prosecutors say narcos stalked

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Blanco’s political career may just soar to new heights. In Morelos, he is being seen as a possible Murray candidate in the 2024 race to become mayor of Mexico City, one of the most influential offices in the country. Blanco said that running for mayor was a possibility, but would depend on his poll ratings, and that he would need “authorization” from López Obrador.

Two government officials familiar with the situation and a politician from the Morena party said they doubted that Blanco could overcome more experienced rivals to win from his new party. But Blanco is likely to be kept close to secure the votes of poor young men who idealize López Obrador, the former captain of Mexico’s national soccer team, said political analyst José Antonio Crespo of Mexico’s Center for Economic Research and Teaching. .

Crespo said of the president, “He doesn’t care which people are involved with narcotics, that’s clear.” “What is important to him is victory. It doesn’t matter how or with whom.

From Slums to Statehouse

Blanco, 50, is one of Mexico’s all-time sporting greats. The fierce attacker quickly became a fans’ favorite after linking up with Club América, the country’s most successful soccer team in the early 1990s. Supporters adored his style, combativeness combined with silky smooth dribbling skills.

At the 1998 World Cup in France, he dazzled fans with his distinctive “cuahtemina” move: trapping the ball between his legs and jumping between two defenders. Even his name became dazzling. Cuauhtémoc was the last Aztec emperor, a warrior whose name symbolizes the “descending eagle” that pounces on its prey.

Blanco grew up in Mexico City’s Tepito neighborhood, one of Latin America’s most notorious slums, where he honed his toughness and street smarts. In a 2015 ESPN interview, he recalled selling pirated cassette tapes as a child. He would go on to earn millions playing for clubs in Spain and the United States. The tabloids fanned his party-animal persona and combustible relationships with models and telenovela stars.

In 2014, as age and injuries forced Blanco to consider retirement, two little-known politicians in Cuernavaca say they approached him with an offer. Brothers Roberto and Julio Yanz, who at the time ran the small Social Democratic Party, wanted to take advantage of Blanco’s fame to wrest the post of mayor from the established parties.

The brothers said that Blanco at first resisted their offer to run, saying that he “hated politics.” He claims that he changed his mind with a cash payment of 7 million pesos (about $470,000 USD at the time): 5 million pesos of this for Blanco and 2 million pesos for José Manuel Sanz, the footballer’s agent. Yanez said the money was planted by a group of businessmen who wanted to secure mayorship and public contracts if Blanco won. Yáñezes declined to name the businessmen.

Blanco said that he was approached by Yanz about entering the mayoral race and considered the idea for a month before deciding that he disliked politics. But he said that no money was touched and no contract was signed. “It’s a complete lie,” Blanco said in reference to Yanez’s allegations, first reported by Mexican media in 2016.

Sanjh also denied taking the bribe. “It’s false,” he said of Yánez’s claims.

Roberto Yanez showed Blanco a signed copy of the contract that contained the candidate’s hopes for the race. According to the document, the soccer star was instructed to pose for photos with potential voters, sign autographs and greet women with kisses, which Blanco claims is fake.

What’s undeniable is that Blanco was a sensation on the campaign trail. Voters lined up for hours to take selfies and get footballs signed, ultimately leading them to victory over more experienced competitors. “I messed them up,” he crowed on election night in June 2015.

Blanco quickly adopted some of the practices of his predecessors. He gave away top jobs to friends and family. According to two prosecutors and 2019 military intelligence documents, he established alleged links with drug traffickers. According to former agency chief Remigio Alvarez and five current SAPAC employees, he significantly worsened the fortunes of SAPAC, Cuernavaca’s water utility.

SAPAC has long had the nickname Caja Chica or “little cash” among locals for its reputation as a honey pot for politicians. Blanco’s arrival signaled a new era for the utility, with alleged former chief Alvarez opening the door to organized crime. “It came later with Cuautemoc,” said Alvarez, who led the agency from 2013 to 2014. He did not provide any documents or other evidence to support his claims.

Blanco refused to allow organized crime to flourish in SAPAC. “It’s not true,” he said.

Their alleged collusion with organized crime is what Mexican officials say is a sweeping change in Mexico in recent years. Groups that once focused almost entirely on narcotics are diversifying how they make money and have spread to almost every corner of Mexican society.

Morelos prosecutors said they believed Blanco “delivered” control of SAPAC to Figueroa, the alleged head of the Comando Tlahuica cartel. They say Figueroa skimmed cash payments from utility customers and paid kickbacks to the mayor for the privilege. Five SAPAC employees described the takeover by the gangster.

Around 2016, the five said, more than a dozen armed men working on Figueroa’s behalf suddenly appeared at the utility’s headquarters. According to activists, these were no ordinary security guards: they said sentries in bullet-proof jackets patrolled the entrance.

Inside, plainclothes men gazed at cashier windows as water customers queued up to pay their bills in cash. Many customers had no choice but to do so, employees said, after SAPAC eliminated the option of paying with debit cards or at convenience stores that year. Three residents of Cuernavaca confirmed this reduction in payment options, which they said had been restored after about a year.

The extra cash left Figueroa’s gang more to skim, the employees alleged, and SAPAC’s finances deteriorated. The utility slowed payments to vendors and fell behind on paying employees’ health insurance and payroll taxes. During Blanco’s tenure as mayor, the utility’s known debt increased by 58% to 403 million pesos ($21.6 million) by the end of 2018, according to a public SAPAC document.

The five employees said that Figueroa also warned the two labor unions working at SAPAC that he would not protest. They said that during a 2017 labor dispute, the alleged dacoit had sent men to beat up a syndicate leader. Separately, Figueroa called SAPAC headquarters and asked to speak on speakerphone to another trade union chief so other workers could hear him making threats, two of the employees said.

“I know where you live and I’m going to kick your fucking ass,” Figueroa told that union chief, according to two workers who said they witnessed the exchange. “If you don’t give up your demands, we will make you disappear.” Activists said that the leaders of the syndicate stood back and remained silent.

The workers’ account of the incidents could not be independently verified.

Figueroa could not be reached for comment.

When Blanco stepped down in July 2018 to run for governor, his successor as mayor, Antonio Villalobos, refused to honor Blanco’s suspected deal with the Comando Tlahuica cartel, according to a military intelligence document. Five SAPAC employees said that instead, other Mafia-affiliated individuals seized control of the utility from Figueroa.

Three officials in Morelos said that at least four people affiliated with SAPAC have been killed violently in the past four years in conflicts over water service. Villalobos was arrested in September and charged with abuse of office over alleged corruption in SAPAC. He lives in jail.

Villalobos could not be reached for comment and it was not known whether he had made the plea. Neither his attorney or a family member responded to requests for comment.

after money

Blanco’s tenure as mayor was widely panned by political commentators. Nevertheless, as national elections loomed in 2018, presidential candidate López Obrador selected Blanco as his party’s contender to run as governor of Morelos on a coalition slate. By this time, Blanco had left the Social Democratic Party for the Social Encounter Party.

“He likes me a lot because I’m not a politician,” Blanco said in reference to the president.

Once elected, Blanco again gave away top jobs to friends and family. Sanz, his former sports agent, continued as his chief of staff. The governor put friend and ex-football player Luis Hernandez Mondragón in charge of the Office of Acquisitions, which oversaw the purchase of goods and services worth millions of dollars.

Hernandez said via WhatsApp that the post needed someone with Blanco’s “absolute confidence” to fight corruption. He said he was given the job because he “always acted with integrity and ethics.”

Some employees began calling Blanco the “absentee governor”. In his first year on the job, Blanco’s official calendar showed no work activities on 207 out of 365 days, according to a Freedom of Information request by Morelos Rinde Cuentas, a local accountability organization. A former Blanco employee said, “As a footballer he had the habit of playing on Sundays and not working on Mondays.”

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