MEXICO CITY — The governor of Mexico's Morelos state has denied any links to drug traffickers after a 3-year-old photo surfaced showing him posing with three men identified as local drug gang leaders.
Former Mexican national soccer team star Cuauhtemoc Blanco won the governorship of Morelos, just south of Mexico City, in 2018 after retiring from soccer. A photo from October of that same year shows him smiling and locking arms with three men, one of whom is under arrest and another who was killed in prison.
The third man is allegedly still alive and leading a gang called the "Tlahuica Commando" that may have been involved in the 2019 killing of a community activist.
The newspaper El Sol de Mexico says the photo was found on the telephone of another drug suspect.
Blanco said Tuesday he had "nothing to hide," and put it down to the dangers of being a former soccer star who would never deny a fan a photo op.
"I have taken a lot of photos as a soccer player," Blanco said. He recalled a time when he was seen in a photo along with a son of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, noting "I didn't even know who he was, but because I'm such a good guy, I take photos with everyone."
Asked by reporters when and where the photo published this week was taken — it appears to be indoors, in an office or dining room — Blanco said "I don't know, I swear, I don't even remember."
"I take a lot of photos (with people), and I am not going to be asking them, 'hey, who are you and what do you do for a living?'" Blanco said. "I am going to continue taking photos," Blanco said defiantly. "Perhaps more will come out."
Blanco previously served as mayor of the state capital, Cuernavaca. During his professional soccer career he was known for his pugnacious, combative style.
Morelos, known for its balmy climate, was once a quiet weekend getaway for Mexico City residents. But in the last two decades it has been hit by kidnappings, extortion and drug gang killings.
Blanco has been criticized for naming former soccer associates to state posts.