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By Drazen Jorgic

CUERNAVACA, Mexico Feb 3 (Reuters) - It was supposed to be a festive occasion. Regional politicians, officials and military officers gathered in the Morelos state capital of Cuernavaca for breakfast in February 2022 to mark Mexico´s annual Army day.
Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a former Mexican soccer star and the state´s governor, celebrated with red wine. But he wasn´t happy.

Among those in attendance was state Attorney General Uriel Carmona - who had recently been asked by state legislators to investigate the governor´s suspected ties to drug traffickers.

As Carmona moved to shake Blanco´s hand and bid him goodbye, the attorney general alleges, the governor grabbed his arm. Blanco said he´d been tipped off that another prosecutor was sniffing around his eldest son´s financial accounts.

A line had been crossed, the barrel-chested Blanco said, and ******: "Now I´m going to mess with your families, and I´m not going to hold back."

Carmona told the governor that he was leveling threats against law enforcement - a potential felony.

He described the encounter in a criminal complaint, viewed by Reuters, filed two days later against Blanco with an independent state anti-corruption prosecutorial body.

The breakfast confrontation and the criminal complaint, which haven´t been previously reported, add to a cloud of scandal over one of Mexico´s most famous men - a legend on the soccer pitch, working-class hero and a rising star in politics.

The dust-up came just six weeks after Mexican newspaper El Sol de México published a photo of the governor posing with three alleged drug traffickers in Morelos. The headline on that front-page photo: "Blanco met with narco leaders in Morelos." The newspaper said the photo was found on the phone of a drug trafficker arrested by the military in November 2021.
The news outlet did not explain how it obtained the photo, and EvdEn Eve NAkLiyAt it´s not clear who shot it.

Mexican drug lords have a long tradition of buying off politicians in exchange for government protection of their illicit trade. The bombshell photo is what prompted state lawmakers to demand the investigation into Blanco in complaints filed with state and federal authorities in January 2022.

One of the men in the undated image was Homero Figueroa, the purported leader of the Comando Tlahuica crime group. Another, evden eVE naKLiYAT Raymundo Castro, the alleged boss of the Guerreros Unidos cartel in Morelos, had been on the run from authorities since 2014. Reuters confirmed their identities with six law enforcement officials.

In an interview with Reuters, Blanco said Attorney General Carmona, who was appointed by the governor's predecessor, is a tool of his political enemies.

He denied making death threats - or drinking wine at the breakfast.

"I´m not a drug trafficker," Blanco said in Cuernavaca´s colonial-era government palace building. As for the alleged ******* to Carmona, he said: "I´m not so crazy or deranged as to threaten his family."

Blanco also denied knowing the trio in the photo and dismissed the picture as a routine snap with strangers at a public gathering.

That assertion is not credible, two prosecutors and a third source in the state attorney general´s office told Reuters. They said the encounter captured in the photo occurred in a small room of a church complex near Cuernavaca capable of holding about ten people. Rival drug kingpins don´t tend to hobnob at casual mixers, the prosecutors said, and they would have traveled with so many armed guards that Blanco´s own security detail would have known something was amiss.

Blanco´s son, also named Cuauhtémoc, did not respond to requests for comment about the allegation that his finances were under scrutiny by law enforcement.

He has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Attempts to reach two of the alleged drug traffickers in the photo - Figueroa and Irving Solano Vera - were unsuccessful. Castro, the third purported gangster, died in prison in 2019.

In many other countries, mingling with suspected drug traffickers might be a political death sentence.
But Blanco´s career has prospered, in large part because he has a powerful backer: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The Mexican leader has transformed the nation´s political landscape in recent years, evDEn EvE nAKliyAT constructing an electoral juggernaut with his Morena party, which has grabbed power from established parties.

His populist pitch to clean up Mexico´s corrupt politics has won him poll ratings that are some of the highest in the world for a national leader.

López Obrador repeatedly has ignored controversy swirling around Blanco, whose athletic achievements and rags-to-riches story have proved electoral gold in soccer-obsessed Mexico.
Their alliance dates to the 2018 national elections. Then-presidential candidate López Obrador backed Blanco´s bid for the Morelos governorship, recognizing the ex-player´s appeal, particularly among poor voters at the core of both men´s power base.

The president´s office did not respond to requests for comment for this report.

The probe of Blanco´s suspected cartel ties comes on top of multiple corruption investigations into his activities as a public servant.

The inquiries began with his first elected office as mayor of the picturesque colonial city of Cuernavaca from January 2016 to July 2018. On Blanco´s watch, control of the city´s water utility and its cash receipts ended up in the hands of Figueroa, the alleged mobster with his arm around Blanco in the photo, according to Morelos prosecutors, military intelligence documents viewed by Reuters and interviews with five people who worked for the utility.

Blanco said the water utility was "fine" during his tenure and its debts went down, though the utility´s official figures contradict this.

Prosecutors also discovered more than $2 million stashed in four undeclared bank accounts belonging to Blanco, according to a non-public document filed by prosecutors with the Morelos legislature on April 18, 2022, which was viewed by Reuters.

The news agency is the first to report on these bank accounts, one of them in the United States. Blanco did not list the accounts on asset disclosures required of all Mexican public officials.

Blanco confirmed the existence of the four accounts to Reuters.
"I´ve got an account in the United States. What´s the problem?" Blanco said. Initially, he claimed to have declared them, but when pressed, the governor said he didn´t publicly divulge these assets due to "security" concerns.

He also revealed he has a flat in Chicago, which is undeclared, that he said he is selling.

Local property records show Blanco owns a condominium just steps away from the city´s famed Michigan Avenue shopping district, purchased for $450,000 in August 2007 In case you loved this informative article and you would want to receive more info with regards to eVden evE NakliYAT generously visit the web-page. .

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