Using Mexican president-elect Claudia Sheinbaum’s decision to include Omar García Harfuch in her cabinet, NACLA [North American Congress on Latin America] contributor Suhail Gharaibeh penned a character assassination piece against García Harfuch (29 June 2024), barely three weeks after Claudia’s victory on June 2. A substantial part of the “character assassination” includes a torrent of innuendoes, guilt by association, and plenty of other tricky ambiguities aimed at allegedly “demonstrating” the long-term connection, if not association, between AMLO and narco-traffickers since at least 2006.

This is Gharaibeh’s piece’s actual objective and the “character assassination of García Harfuch” is the means to do it. This narrative thoroughly echoes Mexico’s right-wing opposition and the world corporate media, which tried to pin the label of “narco-president” on AMLO and Claudia. It was surprising and disappointing to read this in a “progressive” journal.

Hatchet job on García Harfuch

Through subterfuge Gharaibeh (unsuccessfully) seeks to demonstrate, among other things, that García Harfuch “participated” in the forced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in 2014; of being under the command of corrupt police officers (Genaro García Luna, Ramón Pequeño, Luis Cardenas Palomino and others, who participated in drug-trafficking operations of the Sinaloa cartel, all of whom are either fugitives, awaiting trial, or in prison); of being named coordinator of the state of Guerrero’s Federal Police in 2013, at a time when according to the DEA, large amounts of cocaine, heroin and cash were smuggled into the US (when Mexico’s president was Enrique Peña Nieto, any inference on this Mr Gharaibeh?); that the Guerrero command of the Federal Police was a key player in the abduction and disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. And then, for good measure, Gharaibeh cites Anabel Hernández – a “journalist”1 intensely hostile to the Fourth Transformation, to López Obrador and to Claudia Sheinbaum – on alleged, but unproven, corrupt connections between AMLO and the Sinaloa cartel. He also quotes Hernández’s allegation that between 2014 and 2016 – the period when García Harfuch replaced Tomás Zerón de Lucio for criminally attempting to cover up the Ayotzinapa massacre – that García Harfuch “received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the [Sinaloa] cartel,” as “confirmed” to her by anonymous DEA agents.2

Violating the most basic principles of journalism3, Gharaibeh, without any irrefutable evidence or proof of any kind whatsoever nonchalantly asserts “a decade ago, [García Harfuch] participated in the most infamous state crime in recent history (Ayotzinapa)”. Yet, in the title’s subheading of his own NACLA piece, Gharaibeh affirms that García Harfuch “is believed to have participated in the forced disappearance” of the 43 students. The distance between the two statements is big, which, without any serious and verifiable evidence, makes the second statement malicious, but the first, defamatory.

Then, Gharaibeh tries guilt by association. Under the subheading García Harfuch and the New Dirty War, he mentions that García Harfuch’s father and grandfather had been top security officials during 1977-1978 and 1988-1991 and October 1968 (the latter, during the Tlatelolco massacre), respectively. In 1968 García Harfuch had not yet been born (he was born in 1982) and in 1991, he was 9 years old. Gharaibeh’s intent is clear.

Next, Gharaibeh proceeds to highlight the cover up of the Ayotzinapa massacre – the verdad histórica – and cites three reports by the IACHR’s Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) that involved the Federal Police, which figures abundantly in the reports, but Omar García Harfuch is never mentioned in any of them.4 The work of GIEI began in March 2015 (is the GIEI also part of the cover up plot?)

Its last report was issued in February 2022, that is, 6 years after García Harfuch replaced Zerón de Lucio (who was charged but is hiding in Israel), yet Gharaibeh, in typical style, affirms that the vast cover up operation “was concocted precisely to protect officials like García Harfuch.” Worse still, though he puts a link (in Spanish) to the Truth Commission for Ayotzinapa, he fails to inform the reader that this Commission demonstrated the cover up but he also fails to inform (in English) that it was established by decree by president López Obrador in December 20185, and whose findings led to a host of arrests and indictments, even though the case has not yet been completely resolved.

The real target is AMLO

The real target of Gharaibeh’s piece is AMLO. When Gharaibeh repeats the charges that García Harfuch may have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa cartel, he cites as his source Anabel Hernández’s new book La Historia Secreta: AMLO y el Cartel de Sinaloa (The Secret History: AMLO and the Sinaloa Cartel, 2024) that, “by chance,” was published two months before the beginning of the electoral campaign that elected Claudia Sheinbaum as president. President AMLO denounced the false allegations of the book, referring to Hernández as the “Queen of Fiction” because of the raft of allegations without any proof whatsoever and demanded she make the proofs public6. Hernández has failed to do this.

So, once Gharaibeh thinks he has succeeded in demonizing García Harfuch, he moves to the real target, the 4T government. The opening line for this stage of the article is revealing: “García Harfuch not only remained shielded from accountability, but acquired more and more power.” Yes, García Harfuch became Secretary of Citizen Security of Mexico City under Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum from 2019 to 2023 and he joined MORENA in 2019. I’m not sure why Gharaibeh implies that this proves anything at all.

Even the ambush by 50 hitmen against García Harfuch in June 2020 — in which two of his bodyguards and a woman passerby were killed with assault rifles that destroyed his armored car and he himself received three bullet wounds (out of 414 gunshots) — is used by Gharaibeh against him. He takes a quote from a newspaper that describes García Harfuch as a “clever and eager guy” (is this equivalent to being corrupt? Does it prove anything?). But if you read the full article, you’ll realize it is a rather positive depiction of an officer risking his life fighting organized crime in Mexico. Referring to his heavy daily schedule, García Harfuch told El País journalist Jacobo García, “This is not a police officer cowering or taking refuge in his office. We are more active and more motivated than ever to reduce crime.”7

In a BBC article (27 June 2020) about the attempt on García Harfuch’s life, Manelich Castilla Craviotto, former general commissioner of the Federal Police of Mexico (2016-2018), referred to García Harfuch as “one of the most valuable assets the Mexican state has to confront the cancer of organized crime.” The BBC report suggests that there is no doubt it was the blows García Harfuch has dealt to organized crime throughout his career that were crucial to his becoming their target.8

Mr Gharaibeh is not even satisfied with “a glowing review of Sheinbaum’s policies on organized crime in Mexico City and her potential to ‘replicate her success on a national scale’ as president” in the Wall Street Journal.9 He criticizes the WSJ for not mentioning an attack by a rogue police command on the HQ of a narco-linked investment firm in a neighborhood of Mexico City where it “planted weapons and fake drugs, disabled security cameras, and stole more than 70 million pesos in cash.” The innuendo is in the phrase “agents under García Harfuch’s command” which is grossly misleading since it deliberately gives the impression that the command that criminally attacked the firm did it under his direct orders, which is thoroughly false. All police agents in Mexico City were technically and hierarchically under García Harfuch’s command. However, when it comes to producing fake information on AMLO and the 4T, he is a “clever and eager guy.” That brings us to the crux of the matter of Gharaibeh’s piece.

In the final section, Gharaibeh comes up with the real goods: “López Obrador has a strange relationship to the narco-state regime he supposedly set out to transform. Evidence uncovered by the DEA suggests that the Sinaloa Cartel funneled $2 million into [his] first presidential campaign in 2006.” This section Gharaibeh titles “The Paradoxical Fourth Transformation.” What exactly is “paradoxical?” Well, on justice for the Ayotzinapa case, Gharaibeh’s false contention is that AMLO “has systematically destroyed its own institutional efforts to pursue justice.”

Furthermore, Gharaibeh goes on to show another paradox, namely, that after being elected in 2018 on promises to transform a Mexican society lacerated by the drug war, AMLO has traveled to Badiraguato, allegedly the birthplace of Mexico’s drug trade, six times and that he even once shook hands with El Chapo’s elderly mother. Is this a smoking gun Gharaibeh wishes to exhibit as the proof of AMLO’s connection with narco-traffickers? Or is it consistent with AMLO’s approach to fight organized crime? 

The president and Claudia Sheinbaum have repeatedly clarified that “hugs, not bullets” has never been about hugging the delinquents – the narrative of Mexico’s opposition and the world corporate media – but it rather seeks to address the causes of criminal insecurity in Mexico. Claudia has explained that it is about providing positive opportunities for youth so they do not join organized crime. Mr. Gharaibeh is fully aware of the repeated clarifications by both AMLO and Claudia about the policy which he might disagree with but instead, his “journalistic” approach leads him to ignore it.

Outrageously, against all that has been happening in Mexico ever since AMLO was elected president in 2018, Gharaibeh throws his most poisonous barb: “it may now seem to the parents of the Ayotzinapa victims that Mexico’s Fourth Transformation has been a full revolution, a 360-degree turn, in which their country has ended where it started: with their sons’ killers in power.” 

Does Gharaibeh really mean this? The charge is simply preposterous. Did the 4T government led by AMLO concoct a cunning plan to win the presidency,  in order to ensure that those guilty of the assassination of the 43 Ayotzinapa students could come back to power!? This not only exposes the acrobatics of Gharaibeh’s twisted journalism but also shows how mendacious and false it is.

The Ayotzinapa case is complex and difficult. Nevertheless, the work of the Truth Commission and the GIEI found many of the culprits. Through their work, 112 individuals have been imprisoned, among whom 18 are from the Guerreros Unidos cartel, 14 were members of the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), and others were members of the military, including two generals, one ex-commander of the 27th Infantry Battalion, one captain, two sergeants, one lieutenant, one sub lieutenant, three corporals, 10 soldiers, and a member of Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR). The actions include the request of extradition of Tomás Zerón de Lucio, plus the imprisonment of the former secretary of Public Security in Guerrero, the former municipal president of Iguala, plus 74 municipal police officers (8 from Cocula, 7 from Huitzuco, and 41 from Iguala, and 18 more at the state, federal and ministerial levels.10 Has all of this been concocted by AMLO to put the killers of the Ayotzinapa students back in power? Come on Mr. Gharaibeh!

Gharaibeh ends his hack job with a bigger innuendo and a bigger lie by quoting this: “If they’re going through this much effort to boldly lie about [García Harfuch] even being [in Ayotzinapa], then it’s probably because his participation is of utmost value for them to conceal.” Where is the evidence of this? Gharaibeh provides zero evidence. What is of “utmost value” to be concealed by the 4T government? The torrent of innuendos in Gharaibeh’s piece leads only to one conclusion: the government seeks to conceal the connections with the Sinaloa cartel. So, let’s see how much validity Mr. Gharaibeh’s innuendos on this issue contain.

From the government official information on Operations Against Narco-Trafficking, we get the following figures when we compare the period going from December 1, 2012 to November 30, 2018 to the period December 1, 2018 to March 31, 2024. It clearly shows an intensification of the success against narco-trafficking in all key categories (the exception being marijuana because it was basically legalized in 2021). Seizures of cocaine in the latter period (when AMLO was president) increased 250%, methamphetamine by 20% (the most important drugs given the size of the seizures), the amount of dollars seized by 180%, the amount of Mexican pesos by 50%, the amount of clandestine laboratories by over 310%, and the number of people arrested by nearly 15%. So, let’s get this right, is this successful combat against narco trafficking also part of the cunning plan by AMLO to conceal something of “utmost value,” Mr. Gharaibeh? 

Operations against narco trafficking01/12/212 to  30/11/201801/12/2018 to  31/03/2024
Marijuana kg3,939,480562,640
Cocaine kg22,29155,054
Heroin kg2,0091,246
Methamphetamine kg117,117137,022
US dollars66,574,565123,820,896
Mexican Pesos192,598,937287,653,350
People arrested39,75645,268
Source: Gobierno de México, 30 June 2024,


Mr. Gharaibeh’s article is a hack job using innuendos, trickery, deliberate omissions, blatant distortions, misrepresentations and lies, rather than facts. His piece has four sections none of which confirm, demonstrate, or prove his narrative aimed at tarring AMLO and the 4T government with the brush of narco trafficking. Thus, there is no such a thing as the “rebirth” of Omar García Harfuch; nor is there proof that he was involved in the dirty war any time (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s or later). There has not been any cover up on the part of AMLO or the 4T government; García Harfuch did rise through the ranks but there was nothing troubling about it. The so-called “paradoxical transformation” of the 4T into an outfit cunningly planning to put in power those responsible for murdering the 43 Ayotzinapa students is an outlandish allegation.

Please NACLA, publish the work of true investigative reporters rather than engaging in yellow journalism that promotes right-wing conspiracy theories.

  1.  In piece in DW (“The turbulent “victory” of Claudia Sheinbaum,”, Hernández alleges “[I]f narco-trafficking influenced in the 2021 and 2024 elections, what would happen in 2025?”; Hernández uses the typical machista trope against women leaders, “Claudia the eternal, pupil, AMLO, the master.” ↩︎
  2. It is interesting that in another piece about the Ayotzinapa case (Sept 2022), Gharaibeh does not mention García Harfuch at all but where it is correctly stated that the Truth Commission convened by president AMLO published a report that found that the enforced disappearance of the Ayotzinapa 43 constituted a “crime of state,” and also that foreign minister Ebrard on behalf of the government was seeking to extradite Zerón de Lucio,  ↩︎
  3. Editor’s Code of Practice, IPSO, esp. Clause 1,  ↩︎
  4. The first report has 525 pages, the second 605 pages, and the summary 40 pages
  5. Al Jazeera, Mexico’s new president forms truth commission on missing students, 4 December 2018,  ↩︎
  6. César Jiménez, AMLO dice que Anabel Hernández es ‘La reina de la Ficción’; pide pruebe los nexos con Cártel de Sinaloa: “Si las presenta me destruye”, Infobae, 23 May 2024, ↩︎
  7. Jacobo García, Omar García Harfuch, the Mexican police chief who survived being shot at 414 times, El País, 21 June 2021,  ↩︎
  8. Marcos González Díaz, Quién es Omar García Harfuch y por qué fue objetivo de un atentado de violencia sin precedentes en Ciudad de México, BBC Mundo, 26 June 2020, (Castilla is not mentioned in the GIEI reports either) ↩︎
  9. José de Córdoba, Santiago Pérez and Steve Fisher, Wall Street Journal, 7 June 2024, 
  10. Press Release, Comisión Ayotzinapa ratifica el compromiso del presidente AMLO de resolver el tema como asunto de Estado, Government of Mexico, 27 July 2023,  ↩︎