MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Monday publicly attacked a Reuters report published last week detailing how organized crime groups disguised drug profits as routine remittances to move money from the United States to Mexico.
The story, published Friday, was based on interviews with two dozen Mexico residents who said they had been paid by the Sinaloa Cartel to receive remittances sent by the syndicate's operatives in the United States, then turn those drug proceeds over to cartel members in Mexico. The Reuters report also drew on records from eight U.S. federal court cases and interviews with dozens of sources, including industry insiders, analysts and law enforcement agents on both sides of the border to paint a detailed picture of how the criminal venture works.
"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.
(Editing by Stephen Eisenhammer and Marla Dickerson)