A Scandal of Presidential Proportions


Written by Matthew Mendez , Journalist

On the 15th of January 2019, Alex Cifuentes Villa, a Colombian drug lord closely associated with the Mexican kingpin El Chapo Guzmán, delivered a testimony in a New York courtroom in which he accused former Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto of accepting a $100 million bribe from the notorious drug lord. According to Villa, Peña Nieto first approached Guzmán after the Mexican elections of 2012, with the newly elected president asking the kingpin for $250 million. In exchange, Peña Nieto agreed to end the manhunt targeting Guzmán. However, Villa recalls that Guzmán made a counteroffer of only $100 million, which Peña Nieto quickly agreed to.

Jeffrey Lichtman, El Chapo’s lawyer, further brought to light an interview Villa gave to American authorities in 2016, in which the Colombian drug lord was asked whether Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, took a similar bribe from El Chapo’s rivals. When interrogated though, Villa claimed “I don’t recall this incident very well.” Despite such astonishing allegations, former Mexican presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón have yet to respond. However, Francisco Guzmán Ortiz, Peña Nieto’s former chief of staff, rejects Villa’s claims as “…defamatory and absurd…”.

Villa’s testimony unmasked further allegations towards many of Mexico’s most powerful institutions. So far, it has been revealed that El Chapo Guzmán had payed between $10 million to $12 million on multiple occasions to the Mexican military. In return, Guzmán demanded the military either neutralize or capture members of competing drug cartels, specifically the famed Beltrán-Leyva brothers. In addition, at the end of the first week of trials, Guzmán’s lawyers claimed their client would be willing to unveil more payments to Mexican officials, specifically to a sitting Mexican president. Nonetheless, the judge of the trial, Judge Cogan, refused to uphold the lawyers’ motion in defense of “entities who are not parties to this case and who would face embarrassment”. If true, Alex Villa’s allegations would illustrate that in Mexico, all levels of government remain tainted by the nefarious drug cartels.