Former Mexican Soccer Star Turned Governor Brushes Off Photo With Local Gang Leaders

Cuauhtémoc Blanco, a former Mexican national soccer player turned politician who currently serves as the governor of the state of Morelos, has attributed a photo showing him with three men identified by local media as gang members to his habit of simply taking pictures with anyone who asks.

As a famous former athlete, Blanco said he has always obliged people who ask to take pictures with him.

Mexican newspaper El Sol de Mexico published the 2018 photo earlier this week after it was reportedly discovered on the phone of an alleged drug suspect who was not in the picture.

The three men with Blanco were identified as gang members, including one who is currently in prison and another who was killed in prison, while the third man is allegedly the leader of the Tlahuica Commando gang.

Blanco pointed to a photograph also taken during his 2018 campaign showing him with a son of drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman as an example that he takes photos without knowing who people are, saying, "I didn't even know who he was, but because I'm such a good guy, I take photos with everyone."

Several other lawmakers have requested that Blanco explain the photo, indicating that if he refuses, authorities need to investigate the source of the photo, El Sol reported.

Blanco has denied any allegations that the photo means he has connections to gangs or drug cartels in the state.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Mexico, Drug Gangs, Soccer
A 2018 photo of former soccer player Cuauhtemoc Blanco recently published by a Mexican newspaper shows Blanco, who is now a politician, posing with three men who have been identified as gang members. Above, Blanco looks on during Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's final event of the 2018 presidential election at Azteca Stadium on June 27, 2018, in Mexico City. Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

The Tlahuica Commando gang may have been involved in the 2019 killing of a community activist.

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.

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 added 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.