Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Mexico's President Lopez Obrador attends a press conference, in Mexico City Reuters

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Thursday called violent criminal gangs and drug cartels "respectful" people, as they respect citizens of the country and mostly attack each other.

However, the reality seems to be different as many Mexicans have claimed their areas are being controlled by these gangs, who often force people to pay them for protection and kill them or kidnap them if they refuse to pay the protection money.

During Obrador's visit to the township of Badiraguato in Sinaloa, a reporter asked the president about drug cartels' behavior, stressing that Badiraguato is the hometown of imprisoned drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán and the president has visited the place several times during his tenure. His visits have been sparking controversy for a long time.

"Always!" the president answered the reporter, adding that "Sometimes we come upon people who are strange, but respectful," AP News reported.

He further said that "there is something people should know. Fortunately, the attacks that happen in this country generally occur between (criminal) groups. They respect the citizenry."

Obrador has always refused to have any direct confrontation with the drug cartels, claiming that these people are forcefully turned criminals due to the lack of opportunities in the country. Under this administration, he uses a strategy called "hugs, not bullets," focusing on providing job training programs for young people to prevent them from joining the cartels as gunmen.

The recent statement came one month after Obrador said he won't fight against the drug cartels on the United States orders, saying that Mexico is "not going to act as policemen for any foreign government. Mexico First. Our home comes first."

He clarified that of course, Mexico cooperates in fighting drugs as it is a very sensitive, very sad humanitarian issue, causing the death of many young people in the United States due to the use of fentanyl drugs.

The president stressed more than 70,000 Americans die every year due to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, noting that these drugs are mainly manufactured in Mexico, using precursor chemicals smuggled in from China.

Earlier this week, the president said he will be presenting a new fund, hoping to increase pensions from May 1 onward, ahead of upcoming presidential elections.

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