07/10/13 (written by feliciagomez) – Another Mexican state governor is in the media spotlight, this time for alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. Around the same time as the corruption scandal surrounding Tabasco Governor Andrés Granier broke in late June, and just a week before former Quintana Roo Governor Mario Villanueva was sentenced to 11 years by a U.S. federal judge for corrupt ties to drug trafficking, a video surfaced online through Ríodoce news outlet accusing Sinaloa Governor Mario López Valdez of working with the Sinaloa Cartel to defeat cartel rivals and gain control of territory in Sinaloa. López, more commonly known as ‘Malova,’ has denied the allegations.
The video itself features López’s bodyguard, Frank Armenta Espinoza, calmly speaking to the camera as he details interactions the governor had with the Sinaloa Cartel’s two leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambado García and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera. Armenta explicitly points to a meeting with El Mayo and El Chapo that he joined López at in Quilá, Sinaloa near the start of the governor’s term in office (2011-2016). Armenta accuses López of working directly with members of the Sinaloa Cartel in a collaborative effort to defeat the coalition among the Beltran-Leyva Organization, the Carrillo-Fuentes Cartel, and Los Zetas in northern Sinaloa, while simultaneously assisting the Sinaloa Cartel in gaining full control of the state.
To allegedly assist the Sinaloa Cartel, Armenta said that several state officials were promoted to increase protection of the cartel and its interests. One such promotion was the appointment of Jesús Antonio Aguilar Íñiguez, also known as Chuytoño, as the head of the Ministerial Police (Policía Ministerial, PM). Armenta alleges that Chuytoño has headed the effort to coordinate the Sinaloa Cartel’s control, a role in which he also promoted Jesús Carrasco as the Chief of Police in the municipality of Ahome to combat activities against the Sinaloa Cartel in the northern part of the state. Carrasco, who has since been replaced by Gerardo Amarillas Gastelum as chief of police, is accused of having committed crimes including extortion, assassinations, robberies, drug trafficking, and supporting the Sinaloa Cartel.
The video also contains audio clips of alleged discussions held between Governor López and various officials in Sinaloa including Chuytoño, Carrasco, General Moisés Melo García of the military, and El Carrizo Police Commander José Ángel Castro Flores. The audio clips reveal numerous conversations pertaining to organized crime activities such as drug trafficking, murders, and robberies.
Not only have the allegations in the video caught the public’s attention, but so too did the timing of its release. On June 22, 2013, Ríodoce streamed the 55-minute long video online after it was sent to its website. The sender had included a note with the video footage stating, “Please review the link as it reveals very important information. Watch the video.” The video, featuring bodyguard Frank Armenta, came three weeks after Armenta was kidnapped on June 4 as he was returning to his home located in the town of Callejones de Guasavito in the municipality of Guasave. Although his whereabouts were and still remain unknown, the video footage of Armenta detailing Governor López’s alleged ties to the Sinaloa Cartel was the first sign of the bodyguard since his disappearance. For his part, López immediately partnered with the State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado, PGJE) stating they would do everything in their power to get the guard back, including the use of land and water operatives.
While the source of the video’s audio clips are unconfirmed, López, however, has wasted no time in negating all accusations made by Armenta, including the validity of the audio. While he recognizes that the voice in the clips is his, he asserts that it was distorted using advanced technology to piece together phrases he said during various speeches to create inaccurate statements. He believes the video was made under threat to Armenta and went on to say that it is a tool that is being used by organized crime to “discredit his government.”
If the audio clips are proven true, it reveals a network of government, police, and military officials who will be linked to protecting and serving the interests of the Sinaloa Cartel within the state. For example, one audio clip reveals a conversation between Governor López and General Melo García in which López thanks the general for his support in assisting the municipal and state police in several distinct areas in the state. In response to the audio surfacing, General Melo García replied that it was not his problem nor did he have an opinion on the matter.
Due to growing concerns among residents in Sinaloa and pressure from Governor López, the government of Sinaloa has released an eight point response to the video seeking to assure residents that the video was used to fool the public and is a direct attack to discredit the government’s actions against organized crime groups.