Mexico’s President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, publicly denounced a Reuters story released last week outlining how organized criminal organizations disguised drug proceeds as ordinary remittances in order to transport money from the United States to Mexico on Monday.
The piece, which was published on Friday, was based on interviews with two dozen Mexican citizens who said they were paid by the Sinaloa Cartel to receive remittances received by the syndicate’s agents in the United States and then transfer over the drug earnings to cartel members in Mexico. The Reuters article also drew on evidence from eight U.S. federal court cases and interviews with dozens of people, including industry insiders, analysts, and law enforcement officers on both sides of the border, to provide a thorough picture of how the illegal enterprise came to be.
“Reuters, they are some deceivers, liars,” López Obrador said during his regular news conference, which is held every weekday morning.
A Reuters spokesperson said: “We stand by our reporting.”
Remittances – money transfers favored by migrant workers – have soared on López Obrador’s watch as Mexico’s economy faltered and migration to the United States increased. As legitimate remittances have ballooned, it has become ever easier for cartels to disguise their ill-gotten gains in small transfers sent to average people across Mexico who have no obvious links to organized crime, according to four U.S. and Mexican security officials who spoke with Reuters for its report.
The president said the Reuters story stated that “the majority of remittances are linked to the sale of drugs.” In fact, the news agency reported that between 7.5% and 10% of all remittances could come from illegal activity, according to a U.S. official who works on illicit finance and a March report by Mexico think tank Signos Vitales cited in the story.
López Obrador also said the Reuters story was based “on one or two interviews” and suggested that the main source of the article was Signos Vitales. The report, however, drew on interviews with more than 60 people.
Signos Vitales did not respond to a request for comment about the president’s remarks. In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, the organization stood by its report and said that the president had not “presented any arguments that prove the contrary.”
Remittances to Mexico, nearly all of which come from the United States, hit a record $58.5 billion last year, according to data from Mexico’s central bank. That is an increase of $25 billion, or 74%, compared to 2018, when López Obrador came to power.
The president has celebrated this increase and praised migrant workers for sending remittances, which last year accounted for 4.3% of Mexico’s GDP.