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AMLO exonerates General Cienfuegos of ties to drug trafficking and accuses the DEA of "fabricating" evidence

2021-01-15T16:43:49.139Z

Mexican officials had declared that it would be "almost suicidal" to do nothing in the case of the high-ranking military man; in the end they will not press charges. United States prosecutors indicted Salvador Cienfuegos after years of investigation, and Mexico exempted him after two months.



What began in the United States as a multi-year investigation into the former Mexican defense secretary for his apparent links with drug trafficking groups ended in Mexico with his freedom and another complaint: that the charges were "fabricated" by the US authorities. 

This was the opinion of the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, just hours after General Salvador Cienfuegos was exonerated by the Mexican Prosecutor's Office after an

investigation that lasted less than two months.

The Attorney General's Office of Mexico (FGR) announced Thursday night that it will not proceed criminally against Cienfuegos after having reviewed the file that the US attorneys had assembled since 2013, because, in its opinion,

 the charges are not sustained

López Obrador (nicknamed AMLO), who has chosen to give the armed forces more and more power, went further this Friday by suggesting that those charges "were fabricated" against Cienfuegos by the Drug Control Administration (DEA , in English).

He opined that "there was a conscious or unconscious attempt to affect Mexico's bilateral relationship" with the United States, but that this matter "was corrected" and the result is that Cienfuegos will be free.

In Mexico,

around 95% of complaints are not resolved or punished, 

and more than nine out of 10 crimes are not even reported, according to official statistics.

Analysts warn that the fact that there will not even be a real investigation into the military's case is a worrying sign of the "growing power of the Army" and of the lack of capacity to investigate complaints of serious abuses.

The US Justice Department said on Friday that it "reserves the right to restart the process against Cienfuegos if the Mexican government fails to do so," according to the Vice News news website.

The

general's

issue

could thus become a thorny issue that the

incoming

administration

of Joe Biden

inherits

starting next week, especially given the accusations that López Obrador is making towards the DEA.

"The decision to exempt General Cienfuegos [...] is another nail in the coffin of bilateral intelligence and security cooperation," said academic Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute.

[López Obrador admits that it was he who ordered the release of the son of 'El Chapo' in the failed operation against the Sinaloa Cartel]

The prosecutor, Alejandro Gertz Manero, was not at the press conference on Friday where the decision was discussed.

For his part, the president said that the prosecutors act independently.

However, he 

tried to generate suspicion towards the US Attorney's Office

by questioning why Cienfuegos was arrested in October "on the eve of the elections" when, supposedly, the general had also been on US territory in March and at that time no action was taken against him.

"Was it intended to weaken the Government of Mexico, the armed forces of Mexico, that we confront the current government" of Trump ?, questioned López Obrador, despite the fact that the US anti-drug authorities depend on the federal government presided over by Trump.

"We have to ensure that there is justice, but we cannot be unjust," declared the president, "not because an investigation is being carried out abroad with that we are satisfied and it is a sentence."

López Obrador 

is increasingly dependent on the military

, despite vowing during his campaign that he would abandon the policy of "militarization" that previous administrations had followed.

In addition to its general functions of defense of the territory, it has entrusted the public security of protection to ordinary citizens, ports and even the process for delivery of vaccines against the coronavirus.

[In the worst of the pandemic, the Government of AMLO invests in remodeling the stadium where his brother's team plays]

This is largely why the

Mexican government exerted never-before-seen pressure on its US counterparts

to get the Justice Department to drop the charges imposed on Cienfuegos and return him to Mexico, on the grounds of "foreign policy considerations."

Protest posters outside the New York court where a judge allowed the charges against Salvador Cienfuegos to be dropped, on November 17, 2020. Protesters denounce that the Armed Forces led by Cienfuegos committed human rights violations.María Vargas-Pion /Telemundo

When the general returned to Mexican territory in November 2020, the foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, said that the review of the file would be "with the highest standards of effectiveness and honesty" and that it would be "almost suicidal" not to carry out an appropriate investigation. .

The Mexican National Human Rights Commission had even taken advantage of the review of the US case against Cienfuegos in Mexico to emphasize that

when he was Secretary of Defense there were at least 149

confirmed

victims

of torture, forced disappearance or executions by the armed forces.

It is not clear if those complaints will still be reviewed.

This Friday, Ebrard downplayed his own comments regarding "suicidal" actions.

He said there does not need to be a conviction for there to be credibility, although there was not even an indictment with charges.

[Hospitals in Mexico are collapsing amid record coronavirus cases]

"Justice is not just about punishing," said López Obrador on Friday, the same one who a few months ago was accusing judges of promoting "due pretexts" when the magistrates asked that due process be respected.

"We are not going to manufacture crimes ourselves," the president added this Friday.

In Mexico there is a history

of doing just that: multiple human rights organizations have denounced that the authorities usually torture people to force them to plead guilty despite not being guilty, or they tend to leave suspects in preventive detention for years, without your trial being scheduled or enough evidence gathered against you.

The preventive prison was also extended with a reform in 2019, celebrated by López Obrador and promoted by congressmen from his party, Morena.

"In a country with endemic practices of corruption and impunity for military abuses, the return of Cienfuegos [...] was considered a test of whether the FGR could overcome corruption and political considerations," said the research center Oficina en Washington for Latin American Affairs (WOLA, for its acronym in English).

"The FGR failed," the group said, and "

the Cienfuegos case reinforces serious concerns about the Army's growing power

and about the FGR's possibilities to investigate serious crimes and human rights cases."

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has chosen to give more responsibilities to the armed forces led by Salvador Cienfuegos.

López Obrador promised this Friday that, for transparency purposes, the file of hundreds of pages that the US authorities had shared with the Mexican prosecutor's office will be opened for the public to review.

He did not give a date.

Lawyer Sofía de Robina highlighted how curious the president mentioned transparency in that case.

"To know, to be transparent, to be accountable: that is where they have not wanted to compromise with the armed forces," he said.

"It is good that Cienfuegos did know the case against him, that

other victims are denied so many times,

" he added.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-01-15

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