Journalist Hector de Mauleón dropped a bombshell in his Sept. 19 column, revealing leaked diplomatic cables alleging the campaign of incoming Tamaulipas governor Américo Villarreal received funding from the Cartel del Noreste—which dominates the Nuevo Laredo crime plaza. Villarreal won the June 5 gubernatorial contest for the ruling MORENA party, taking 50.27% of the vote in Tamaulipas. The state borders Texas and has been rife with drug cartel violence over the past dozen years.

De Mauleón cited diplomatic cables dated March 14, 2022, and March 30, 2022, written by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar with the titles, “MEXICAN NAVY MEMBERS DISAPPEARANCE,” and, “AMERICO VILLARREAL CARTEL MONEY.”

The newspaper El Universal published the cables—written in English and leaked to de Mauleón by a source—on its website.

The second cable raises an investigation led by the DEA and U.S. Department of the Treasury “on the subject of Gerardo Teodoro Vazquez Barrera” —an alleged Cartel del Noreste moneyman known as “El Gerry” — “who disappeared along with 2 members of the Mexican navy earlier this month when they were transporting assets of the northeast cartel to finance the political campaigns of the MORENA party in the State of Mexico in 2023.” It continued, “A multimillion-dollar account in his name has been found in the British Virgin Islands, presumably belonging to the cartel.” The cable alleges funds from that account were sent to another account belonging to Villarreal’s son—“approximately 7 million US dollars from the cartel” —and eventually the Villarreal campaign.

Villarreal vehemently denied the accusations, saying in a statement, “Any information that tries to tie me to this is completely unfounded and has the sole purpose of distorting the truth and seeking to damage my reputation and my status as governor-elect of Tamaulipas.” He also produced a letter from a Dutch law firm, saying his son had no bank accounts, which could have been used for transferring funds.

Accusations of a drug cartel meddling in the political process came as little surprise in Mexico, where accusations of cartel collusion in politics have been rife for decades. Accusations of collusion have been especially rife in Tamaulipas, where two former governors are imprisoned on money laundering and organized crime charges and the ruling party’s gubernatorial candidate was assassinated on the eve of elections in 2010.

For more on Mexico, click here.