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Former Mexican Defense Secretary arrested in US on drug trafficking - Walla! News

2020-10-17T13:03:49.129Z

Salvador Cienfuegos, 73, who was a member of the previous administration, was arrested at a Los Angeles airport and charged with a murderous cartel that could transport tons of heroin and cocaine to the U.S. in exchange for bribes. "Protect no one," the Mexican president said



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The former Mexican defense minister has been arrested in the US on drug trafficking charges

Salvador Cienfuegos, 73, who was a member of the previous administration, was arrested at a Los Angeles airport and charged with a murderous cartel that could transport tons of heroin and cocaine to the U.S. in exchange for bribes. "Protect no one," the Mexican president said

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  • Mexico

  • United States

  • Anders Manuel López Obrador

  • Drug cartels

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Friday, 16 October 2020, 19:03 Updated: Saturday, 17 October 2020, 15:51

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Reuters

Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cainfuagos has been arrested in the United States on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering.

The 73-year-old Cynfagos, who was defense minister in President Enrique Pena Nieto's previous administration, was arrested Thursday night at a Los Angeles airport following a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) order.



The prosecution in the United States said tonight (Saturday) that it used its authority to protect a faction in the Latran-Leve cartel, ordered operations against rival gangs and even located maritime transport routes for drug smuggling.

He received bribes while defending the cartel members, including warnings of US investigations against them.



"In exchange for bribes, he allowed the H-2 cartel involved in wholesale violence, including torture and murder, to operate with immunity in Mexico," prosecutors said in the charges against him, which include four counts of drug trafficking and money laundering, in a New York court.

The H-2 cartel is the name of the same tributary in Baltaren-Leiva.



He will remain in custody in Los Angeles at least until the first official hearing next week.

He could face up to more than 30 years in prison if convicted.

His lawyer has yet to respond to the dramatic allegations, which could have far-reaching implications for the war on drugs in Mexico, which the United States supports.

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He told the cartel members about investigations against them.

Salvador Cienfuegos (Photo: Reuters)

Following the arrest of the former senior official, President Andres Manuel López Obrador promised to clean up the armed forces from corruption, but expressed support for the current leadership.

Following the resounding arrest of Cienfuegos, who held the post from 2012 to 2018, the Mexican president has said he will suspend anyone in his government involved in the affair.



"We will not defend anyone," López Obrador said, before showering praise on Sinofagos' successor led by the armed forces and the naval commander.

He said he personally guarantees that they are clean-handed.

"They are non-corrupt," he said at a news conference.



Several senior Mexican officials have expressed in closed talks astonishment at Cienfuegos' arrest, fearing an unprecedented US intervention against a symbol of Mexico's national security.

However, Lopez Oberdor quickly incorporated the general's arrest into his narrative against his predecessors in office.

He accuses them of allowing corruption to thrive in Mexico, which for many years has experienced appalling drug cartel violence.



"If we are not talking about a drug state, we can certainly talk about a drug government, and without a doubt, a mobster government," said Lopez Obrador, who was elected in 2018 after promising to clean up public corruption.

He is trying to put to a referendum the removal of the immunity of past presidents, so that they can stand trial.

"We clean and purify public life."

Trying to prosecute his predecessors.

Mexican President (Photo: Reuters)

The populist left-wing leader said he only heard about the arrest after it happened, but he noted that Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Martha Bresana, informed him about two weeks ago that there were rumors of an investigation involving Cynfagos.



He said there was no investigation against the former defense minister in Mexico, and his arrest was linked to an affair involving former defense minister Genero Garcia Luna, who was arrested by U.S. authorities last year on drug offenses.

Like Garcia Luna, who served from 2006 to 2012, Cienfuegos was a senior figure in Mexico's war on drug cartels, in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the past two decades.



The arrest came less than three weeks before the US presidential election.

President Donald Trump, who is running for another term, has promised to use a tough hand against the cartels, but has recorded little success since taking office in 2017.

"The Godfather"

Cienfuegos was the defense minister in Pena Nieto's administration, some of whose advisers and party members are now accused of corruption.

The former president denies claims he received bribes from the cartels.



Cienfuegos, nicknamed El Pedrino - the Spanish-speaking man - in an indictment filed as early as August last year and only revealed with his arrest - is the first Mexican defense minister to stand trial and be arrested.

Just two years ago he received a Medal of Excellence from the Pentagon, and if he did do what was attributed to him, it would be another sign of the failures of Mexico's war on drug cartels, which it supports in the United States.

Its downfall could have far-reaching implications for Mexico's strategy against criminal organizations, led by the armed forces for more than a decade.



Former Secretary of Defense Garcia Luna is on trial in New York on charges of receiving millions of dollars from Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo, who headed the Sinaloa cartel he was supposed to fight.

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Prosecutors in the United States say there appear to have been close ties between Cienfuegos and the H-2 cartel, set up by the Baltaren-Leiva brothers, linked through marriage to El Chapo and coming from the same town. Despite this, they waged a murderous war against the Sinaloa cartel.



One of the brothers was killed in 2009, and the other was arrested in 2014. At the time of the crimes allegedly committed by the former defense minister, between 2015 and 2017, the cartel already had a new leader, Juan Francisco Patron. The senior general's help helped the cartel transport tons of cocaine, heroin methamphetamine and marijuana without any real intervention from the Mexican military. According to court documents, which relied on information intercepted from BlackBerry correspondence, Cynfagos ensured that the military would not act against the cartel but against rival groups.



He is even accused of having known the cartel leaders to other executives in Mexico in exchange for bribes. According to court documents, information he passed on about the possible cooperation of a U.S. informant led to the murder of a cartel member who was inadvertently suspected of assisting law enforcement in the United States. Prosecutors said thousands of messages included those in which the minister mentioned his past help to another drug cartel.



Historically, the Mexican military has been perceived as less corrupt than the police. However, that image has eroded since former President Felipe Calderon sent the military to fight cartels in late 2006.



Cynfagos, a tall and impressive man, has struggled to protect the military from embarrassing investigations. Under his watch, the military was charged with extrajudicial executions, including a massacre that took place in Tatalia in central Mexico in 2014, when 22 gang members were shot dead.



Last month, arrest warrants were issued for soldiers involved in the abduction and murder of 43 students in September 2014.

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Source: walla

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