Mexico president-elect will be put to test quelling cartel violence, which bleeds into Chicago

Law enforcement officials say Chicago gets spillover of violence

ByBarb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones and Chuck Goudie WLS logo
Thursday, June 13, 2024
Many wonder if female Mexico president-elect can quell cartel violence
Will the new incoming president of Mexico, Claudia Sheinbaum quell cartel violence after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador leaves office? Many want to know.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- When Mexico's first female president-elect met the outgoing president this month, their embrace symbolized more than just friendly politics.

For the past six years, Mexico's official cartel strategy has been "Hugs, not bullets." And it isn't working very well. Cartel warfare is leaving a trail of more than 20,000 bodies every year: many times hanging from bridges or tossed into mass graves.

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And, what happens in Mexico doesn't stay in Mexico, at least when it comes to the drug cartels. Law enforcement officials say Chicago gets the spillover of violence.

That has authorities in the city wondering whether a new president of Mexico will change anything.

The violence in Mexico has only escalated during the six-year administration of now outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is a champion of the hugging policy aimed at preventing youth from becoming cartel assassins.

But, that approach hasn't done much for fearful residents, who say the cartel combat starts every day at 8 p.m., with high-caliber snipers and firebombings.

Bullet holes, burned out vehicles and torched houses are the daily result of an out-of-control drug cartel world in Mexico.

SEE MORE: Mexico elects Claudia Sheinbaum as 1st woman president, election institute says

Michael Albertus, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, told the I-Team the current administration hasn't been particularly successful from the perspective of keeping the peace.

"There are now annually over 20,000 people who are either killed or go missing in Mexico. And so the violence is really kind of out of control, and Obrador has, has basically kept cartels kind of at arm's length. He hasn't confronted them," he said

It's an observation shared by many who are now trying to assess whether it will be more of the same when former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum takes over as president Oct. 1.

Shelia Lyons, the special-agent-in-charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago Field Division, said it's too soon to tell what the cartel and illegal drug landscape will look like in the coming year.

"I am hopeful that with the new administration in Mexico, the new president has a bunch of priorities to read about and look at. But that cooperation with us would be something that would benefit both sides equally, and will be equally important to both countries' citizens," she said.

Albertus doesn't expect a dramatic change.

"Like any good politician, Claudia Sheinbaum, when popular before an election, tends to hold her cards close to her chest, right? So, she hasn't revealed a lot of information about the specific policies that she's going to enact when she gets into office, but I think we can assume that, to a considerable degree, she's going to follow the policies of her predecessor," she said.

On the campaign trail, the incoming president of Mexico said she would continue her predecessor's social strategy aimed at stopping the recruitment of young people by drug gangs. And she pledges to continue an expanded national guard there, even though that hasn't helped curb cartel violence.

With the unabated production of illicit drugs, including deadly fentanyl, the flow northward continues, with the cartel coattails reaching deep into Chicago neighborhoods.