February 13, 2019 / 2:53 PM / 3 days ago

'Freedom is precious,' Mexican president says of 'El Chapo' trial

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a media conference at Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico, January 30, 2019. Picture taken on January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The conviction of drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in a U.S. court is a lesson that a life of crime and easy money doesn’t bring happiness, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday.

Jurors on Tuesday found Guzman guilty of all 10 counts, including running a criminal enterprise, in a trial that began in November in New York.

“It should be a lesson that true happiness is not money, it’s not material, it’s not cheap luxury, or fame,” Lopez Obrador said at his daily news conference, when asked about Guzman’s conviction.

“We don’t wish anybody ill. I would like those who choose these paths to reconsider, and understand that freedom is a very precious gift.”

Lopez Obrador, who took office in December after a landslide election victory, last month declared that Mexico’s drug war was over and vowed a new security strategy focused more on bringing down record homicide levels and less on toppling kingpins.

While the leftist president, 65, still leans on the military to fight crime, he says his example of clean leadership will help bring about moral change in Mexico.

Witnesses in the trial of Guzman claimed the gangster, 61, once paid a $100 million bribe to Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, former president Enrique Pena Nieto. Other witnesses claimed the cartel paid bribes to former president Felipe Calderon and to a former aide of Lopez Obrador.

The politicians have all denied the claims, which were not supported by evidence.

Lopez Obrador said such allegations could be investigated if a formal complaint emerged in Mexico, but that his preference, politically, was to prevent future corruption rather than dwell on the past.

Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe

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