Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar responded to an advertisement Tuesday produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee that resurfaced alleged ties between the politician and one of the most dangerous Mexican drug cartel crime syndicates.
Cuellar, who has held the state’s 28th Congressional District seat since 2005, which covers a significant portion of the southern border, faces political newcomer, Republican Cassy Garcia, in one of the most closely watched races in the country.
However, the career politician immediately defended his position against the NRCC’s ad, which alleges residents elected the career politician amid allegations of fraud eighteen years ago. He was then later re-elected after allegedly receiving funds from the wife of a man who laundered money for Los Zetas, a Mexican cartel widely known for dismembering their victims and publicly hanging them from bridges.
“Cassy Garcia has resurfaced a 10-year-old story and launched a blatantly false ad just seven days before Election Day in a desperate attempt to smear Congressman Cuellar’s reputation and save her losing campaign,” a statement reads.
Cuellar reiterated that he donated the money to charity after learning who contributed the funds to his campaign.
“In Spanish there is a saying ‘patadas de ahogado,’” the statement reads, which translates to “to kick when you’re drowning, “according to Quora. “And this is exactly what this is, a desperate and futile attempt to influence this race with lies.”
¡Patadas de ahogado! pic.twitter.com/DuAN70gp7S
— Henry Cuellar (@CuellarCampaign) November 1, 2022
García called out her opponent in a response on Twitter,
“Henry, here’s some more Spanish for you: POLÍTICO CORRUPTO,” García said. “You’ve been in office since 1987 and people are fed up with your scandals. Enough is enough. South Texas is voting for a better way forward.”
Henry, here’s some more Spanish for you:
You’ve been in office since 1987 and people are fed up with your scandals. Enough is enough.
South Texas is voting for a better way forward. https://t.co/DFTKaBrLAj
— Cassy Garcia for Congress (@CasandraLGarcia) November 1, 2022
Garcia, who is married to a Border Patrol agent, has used her campaign to emphasize Cuellar’s alleged ethical misconduct and the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
“Come January, when I raise my right hand and place the other on the Bible, I will swear an oath, not just to the Constitution, but to restore honor and dignity to this office,” García told the National Review in a statement.
A FiveThirtyEight poll published last week shows Cuellar has roughly an 8-in-10 chance of beating Garcia.
The National Review reports Cuellar and his brother, Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar, faced backlash from local media but dodged national attention after federal agents arrested Antonio Peña Arguelles ten years ago in San Antonio.
Peña Arguelles, who had citizenship in Mexico and was a legal resident in the United States, was sentenced in 2014 to 30 months in prison for money laundering to the Zetas.
My San Antonio reported that Peña Arguelles funneled millions of dollars from the Zetas to top Mexican officials.
The NRCC advertisement claims Cuellar was re-elected with funds from Peña Arguelles’ former wife. The National Review reports Peña Arguelles’ former wife gave $1,000 to the re-election effort of Henry Cuellar, while Peña Arguelles himself donated $1,500 to Sheriff Cuellar’s election.
According to The National Review, a spokesperson for Cuellar and his law enforcement brother said they’ve returned or given to charity campaign donations from Peña-Arguelles and his former wife.
Earlier this year, Cuellar made headlines amid another scandal after FBI authorities raided his campaign office in a criminal investigation related to the notoriously corrupt government of Azerbaijan, which Cuellar co-chairs the Azerbaijan Caucus in Washington.
Although an attorney for Cuellar claimed he is not the focus of the investigation, a former U.S. Attorney told San Antonio’s KENS 5 that the Democrat politician is “probably not just a witness in the case.”
“This is either an incredibly serious allegation or a very fast-moving investigation,” said former prosecutor Ryan Patrick to local media earlier this year.
The anti-Cuellar ad comes with a barrage of 19 other new spots released by the NRCC across 17 districts nationwide in an effort for voters to “reject Democrat policies that have left Americans with skyrocketing prices and unsafe communities,” according to the committee’s website.
“Democrats’ one-party rule has been a complete disaster for our country,” Michael McAdams, the committee’s communications director, said. “It’s time to put a check on Democrats’ radical policies and stunning incompetence.”