Former Mexican defense minister arrested LA airport on drugs and money charges

Photo: AFP

Former Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Salvator Cienfuegos was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. and Mexican sources, and led the country's army under former presidential officer Enrique Peña Nieto for 6 years.

Two people with arrest knowledge said that the US has been detained by Cienfuegos. Administration of Drug Enforcement Order. One person said that the warrant was against drugs and money laundering. Both spoke about anonymity, as they were not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Thursday night, the DEA refused to comment.

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico's foreign minister, wrote that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau informed him of the General's retirement arrest and that he was entitled to consular support from Cienfuegos.

A Mexican senior official, who spoke anonymously also because he was not permitted to explain the case in detail, said he was arrested when he came with his family to Los Angeles airport. He was sent to a metropolitan detention center and freed from his family.

From 2012 to 2018, Cienfuegos served under Peña Nieto as Defense Secretary. He is the top official former cabinet arrested because of the 2019 arrest of Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico's most prominent security official. Garcia Luna has pleaded not guilty to the accusations of drug trafficking who served under former President Felipe Calderón.

Cienfuegos is 72 years old and has retired. There was no immediate response to the arrest by the Defense Department of Mexico.

Mike Vigil, former DEA head, said he heard allegations of corruption about Cienfuegos in 2012 in Mexico.

"There have always been corruption allegations, nothing in which we might sink our teeth. It was unprecedented in that Mexico put the military on a pedestal,' said Vigil, author of "Enchantment Cartel Land." This is a kind of unheard of.

"Corruption has only come to an end because people who were once untouchable have been detained now," said Vigil. "There is someone else that will fall if they collaborate (with U.S. prosecutors), noting that U.S. authorities usually do not want to trade off, usually do business up,' seeking evidence against the same or senior officials. "The fact that two cabinet officials are arrested in the U.S. is really a precarious situation for Mexico."

Whatever the charge, Mexico will have a hard blow, where the army and the navy are some of the few public institutions that have been respected.

While President Andrés Manuel López Obrador vowed to follow past administrations for corruption and lawbreaking, he also depended on the army more strongly than any other president in recent history and took more duties on it, from building infrastructure projects to the distribution of health supplies.

Under Cienfuegos, both his predecessors and his post-shift successor were charged with frequent human rights abuses by the Mexican army.

Cienfuegos' worst scandal was that the suspects had been shot in grain stores in 2014 by the army.

The massacre in June 2014 included soldiers killed in the warehouse of Tlatlaya 22 suspects. While some died in the first shooting with the military-patrol — a soldier was injured — a later investigation into human rights revealed that at least 8 suspects were murdered and perhaps a dozen after they surrendered.

Publish : 2020-10-16 10:57:00

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