The Mexican president has pledged to clean up the country’s armed forces after a former United States defense minister was arrested for drug trafficking and money laundering this week.
Salvador Cienfuegos, who served as Mexico’s defense chief from 2012 to 2018, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, taking Mexican security services by surprise, senior federal sources said.
The American authorities did not warn their Mexican counterparts of the operation.
According to documents released by US federal prosecutors in New York on Friday, prosecutors charge Cienfuegos with conspiracy to produce and distribute heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and cannabis in the United States between December 2015 and February 2017.
In return for bribes, he allowed the H-2 cartel, a cartel that routinely engaged in massive violence, including torture and murder, to operate with impunity in Mexico, according to the act. of accusation.
The prosecution said the evidence against the retired general, nicknamed The Godfather, included thousands of Blackberry messages between Cienfuegos and members of the cartel that were intercepted by authorities.
Under Lopez Obrador, the armed forces assumed more responsibility, including creating a militarized national police force [File: Henry Romero/Reuters]It is very unfortunate that a Secretary of Defense has been arrested on charges of links to drug trafficking, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said at his daily press conference on Friday.
We are facing an unprecedented situation, Lopez Obrador added, noting that two former Mexican ministers are now being held in the United States on allegations of links to drug cartels.
Of course, all of this has to be proven, he said.
Lopez Obrador, who came to power in 2018 promising to crack down on corruption, added that the arrests made it clear that Mexico was previously ruled by a narco-government and arguably a Mafia government.
Former Mexican Minister of Public Safety from 2006 to 2012, Genaro Garcia Luna, was arrested in Texas in December 2019 for accepting huge bribes to allow the infamous Sinaloa cartel to send money. drugs in the United States, which he denies.
The latest arrest could lead US authorities to pursue even bigger targets, said Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
War on drugs
There had been no open investigation into Cienfuegos in Mexico and his arrest was linked to the case against Garcia Luna, Lopez Obrador said.
Garcia Luna is on trial in New York after being accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from captured King Joaquin El Chapo Guzmans Sinaloa Cartel, whom he was supposed to fight.
Like Garcia Luna, Cienfuegos had been a major figure in the so-called Mexican drug war, which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the past 20 years.
Under Cienfuegos, the military was accused of extrajudicial killings, including the Tlatlaya massacre in June 2014 in central Mexico, where 22 drug gang members were shot dead.
Former Mexican Minister of Public Safety Genaro Garcia Luna is on trial in New York on separate corruption charges [File: Tomas Bravo/Reuters]The Cienfuegoss case is the first time that a former defense minister has been arrested and will have far-reaching implications.
Lopez Obrador has pledged to suspend anyone in his government who may be involved in the charges.
We will not cover anyone, he said, adding that his government is cleaning up, purifying public life.
Under Lopez Obrador, the armed forces took on more responsibility, including creating a militarized national police force, overseeing port security and working on infrastructure projects.
Some Mexican officials have been privately shocked by Cienfuegos’ detention at the Los Angeles airport, fearing it was an unprecedented US intervention against a symbol of Mexican national security.
It was totally unexpected. I never saw this coming, never, ever, a senior law enforcement source said.
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