Mexican governor denies drug ties after capo photo

FILE – Mexican soccer star Cuauhtemoc Blanco votes in the midterm elections in Cuernavaca, Mexico on June 7, 2015. Blanco, the governor of the Mexican state of Morelos, on Tuesday January 4, 2022 denied any connection with drug traffickers after a 3-year-old photo surfaced showing him posing with three men identified as local drug gang leaders. (AP Photo / Tony Rivera, on file)

MEXICO CITY (AP) – The governor of the Mexican state of Morelos has denied any connection to drug traffickers after a 3-year-old photo surfaced showing him posing with three men identified as local drug gang leaders .

Former Mexican national football star Cuauhtemoc Blanco won the governorship of Morelos, just south of Mexico City, in 2018 after retiring from football. A photo from October of the same year shows him smiling and hugging three men, one of whom is under arrest and another who was killed in prison.

The third man is believed to be still alive and is believed to lead a gang called “Tlahuica Commando” which may have been involved in the 2019 murder of a community activist.

Mexico City’s El Sol newspaper says the photo was found on the phone of another drug suspect.

Blanco said on Tuesday he had “nothing to hide” and blamed it on the dangers of being a former football star who would never deny a fan a photoshoot.

“I took a lot of pictures as a footballer,” Blanco said. He recalled once he was seen in a photo with a son of jailed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, noting “I didn’t even know who he was but because I’m such a good guy, I take pictures with everyone. ”

Asked by reporters when and where the photo posted this week was taken – it appears to be indoors, in an office or dining room – Blanco replied “I don’t know, I swear, I don’t care. not even remember. “

“I take a lot of pictures (with people) and I’m not going to ask them, ‘Hey, who are you and what do you do for a living? “” Blanco said. “I will continue to take pictures,” Blanco said defiantly. “Maybe there will be more.”

Blanco was previously mayor of the state capital, Cuernavaca. During his professional football career he was known for his pugnacious and combative style.

Morelos, known for its mild climate, was once a quiet weekend getaway for residents of Mexico City. But over the past two decades, he has been plagued by kidnappings, extortions and drug gang murders.

Blanco has come under fire for appointing former football associates to state posts.

Jack C. Nugent