Mexico Clears Salvador Cienfuegos, Ex-Protection Minister, in Drug Case
MEXICO CITY — The authorities in Mexico say they’ll convey no fees towards a former prime navy official who was arrested in the US final yr on drug-trafficking and corruption fees, solely to be despatched residence on the request of the outraged Mexican authorities.
The previous protection minister, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, had been accused by the U.S. authorities of taking bribes in alternate for shielding drug cartel leaders. He was arrested on the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles in October.
His full exoneration in Mexico got here as a surprising about-face after the authorities had promised to convey the total weight of the Mexican justice system to bear within the case. In November, the nation’s overseas minister stated that doing nothing after having demanded the final’s return to Mexico could be “nearly suicidal.”
Basic Cienfuegos was apparently referred to as “El Padrino,” or The Godfather, by one in all Mexico’s most violent drug cartels. Officers stated Basic Cienfuegos directed navy operations away from the legal group in alternate for giant sums of money. However the Justice Division abruptly dropped the case towards him in November, and he was allowed to return to Mexico.
Late Thursday night time, the Mexican legal professional common’s workplace stated in a press release that Basic Cienfuegos — who served as protection minister in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration from 2012 to 2018 — “by no means had any encounter with the members of the legal group.”
Additionally they stated he had not offered any type of safety to cartel members and had by no means obtained any “unlawful earnings.”
Basic Cienfuegos, who was by no means positioned below arrest in Mexico regardless of the proof introduced by U.S. officers, has now been cleared of all fees.
The information is a brand new blow to U.S. officers, significantly these within the State Division and in Congress, who had been surprised by the Justice Division’s determination to free Basic Cienfuegos and permit him to face justice in Mexico.
Relations between the US and Mexico over safety operations have turn into more and more fraught for the reason that common’s arrest. In December, Mexican lawmakers accredited laws to manage the actions of overseas brokers within the nation, doubtlessly limiting cooperation with American narcotics officers.
The brand new regulation was greeted with immense frustration by U.S. officers, together with William P. Barr, then the legal professional common, who stated in a press release that the invoice would make “cooperation between our nations tougher.”
Mike Vigil, a former chief of worldwide operations on the Drug Enforcement Administration, advised The Related Press that clearing Basic Cienfuegos “could possibly be the straw that broke the camel’s again so far as U.S.-Mexico cooperation in counter-drug actions.”
But Basic Cienfuegos’s exoneration has additionally prompted outrage in Mexico, significantly on condition that the Mexican authorities had vowed to completely examine the accusations towards him.
“The exoneration of Salvador Cienfuegos exhibits that the armed forces are untouchable,” Denise Dresser, a political analyst and frequent authorities critic, said on Twitter. “They act above the regulation.”
The Mexican navy is an more and more central pillar of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s technique to sort out Mexico’s hovering charges of violence. It serves many different roles, too, together with working airports and distributing the coronavirus vaccine.
Below Mr. López Obrador’s authorities, which took workplace in December 2018, navy spending has grown by nearly 40 p.c, based on native media. The protection ministry’s price range has outpaced the full obtained by eight different federal companies mixed, together with the overseas ministry, the inside ministry and the economic system ministry.
Basic Cienfuegos’s arrest had left Mexico’s navy significantly incensed, with military officers urgent the federal government to take motion.
Nonetheless, at a information convention in November, International Minister Marcelo Ebrard stated that “it could be very expensive” for Mexico to “do nothing” after having requested for the fees towards the previous protection chief to be dropped and for him to be returned residence.
“It will be nearly suicidal,” Mr. Ebrard stated.
However the truth that Basic Cienfuegos will face no fees shouldn’t be altogether stunning in a rustic the place impunity for the well-connected is exceptionally excessive, even for minor crimes, and the place greater than 90 p.c of homicides go unsolved.
In its assertion, the legal professional common’s workplace stated that Basic Cienfuegos was made conscious on Jan. 9 of the fees towards him by the U.S. authorities, in addition to of the outcomes of the Mexican authorities’ personal investigation. The final was then allowed to supply proof in his protection.
Lower than per week later, all fees had been dropped.
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