Christopher Landau, U.S. ambassador to Mexico during the Trump administration, said during a roundtable event with former diplomats last week that drug cartels control between 35 and 40 percent of Mexican territory.
“I think there is no doubt that they play a broad role in the governance of Mexico,” Landau said.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, he added, has taken a passive approach to the cartels. “He sees the cartels as his Vietnam,” Landau said, noting that López Obrador has tried to avoid open conflict, and instead adopted a “laissez faire attitude towards the cartels.”
In comments Wednesday, López Obrador dismissed Landau’s assessment, saying, “It’s not like that,” and boasting, somewhat implausibly, that he travels all over Mexico without bodyguards.
But after a string of high-profile attacks and assassination attempts by cartels last year, along with a dramatic string of indictments and intrigue among top former Mexican officials, it’s hard to argue with Landau’s assessment.
Last June, in