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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is pushing back at critics questioning his decision to travel on Sunday to Badiraguato, the hometown of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

While in Badiraguato, López Obrador met El Chapo’s 92-year-old mother, María Consuelo Loera Pérez. Video shows López Obrador shaking hands with her while she sits in a car, and saying, “Don’t get out,” The Guardian reports.

His trip to Sinaloa state came one day after Mexico’s deputy health minister asked citizens to stay home to stop the spread of COVID-19, and Lopéz Obrador’s decision to visit with El Chapo’s mom while traveling was a double whammy for people like journalist Pascal Beltrán del Río, who tweeted, “It is very hard to understand what the president did today in Badiraguato.” Lopéz Obrador, he added, “failed to keep a healthy distance — in more than one sense.”

Badiraguato is in a poor region, and López Obrador has promised to lift people there out of poverty. On Monday, he tweeted he was in Sinaloa to “connect with marginalized communities and villages,” and later accused conservatives of turning this non-issue into a scandal. “Sometimes, because it’s my job, I have to give my hand to white-collar criminals,” he said. “So how could I not give it to an old lady?” Catherine Garcia

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