U.S. charges Mexico’s ex-defense secretary with drug smuggling

U.S. charges Mexico's ex-defense secretary with drug smuggling

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Mexico’s previous defense secretary is dealing with charges of utilizing his position to assist among the most infamous drug cartels run with impunity while utilizing the Mexican military to injure their competitors, according to U.S. district attorneys.

Federal district attorneys in Brooklyn, New York, have actually charged Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, 72, with accepting allurements from the H-2 cartel based in Nayarit and Sinaloa, Mexico, in exchange for his services.

Cienfuegos, who functioned as defense secretary under then-President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018, was nabbed Thursday at Los Angeles International Airport.

The H-2 cartel is explained by district attorneys as having actually dispersed countless pounds of heroin, drug, methamphetamines and cannabis.

“In Mexico, the H-2 Cartel trafficked in numerous deadly guns and dedicated many acts of dreadful violence, consisting of abuse and murder, in order to safeguard versus difficulties from competing drug trafficking companies, defend area and silence those who would work together with police,” specified district attorneys.

If Cienfuegos is founded guilty of the 4 counts of laundering drugs and cash, he might deal with life in jail.

Cienfuego’s detention memo states he assisted make certain that military operations weren’t carried out versus the H-2 cartel, that he started military operations versus competing drug cartels and assisted find maritime transport for H-2’s drugs, and acted to broaden H-2’s area to Mazatlán and later on the rest of Sinaloa.

Cienfuegos likewise presented the cartel’s senior management to other corrupt Mexican authorities who presumably took allurements and cautioned H-2 about U.S. police examinations, consisting of using witnesses and informants. One expected informant was eliminated since H-2 thought he was dealing with U.S. police, although district attorneys state he wasn’t.

Prosecutors state they obstructed countless Blackberry messenges in between Cienfuegos and H-2 management detailing the relationship.

‘Decomposition of the federal government’

Mexico’s president on Friday slammed previous administrations as corrupt after the arrest.

“This is an apparent example of the decay of the federal government, of how civil service was degrading,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador stated, according to The Associated Press.

López Obrador stated he just found out about Cienfuegos’ arrest later and integrated the occurrence into his story that his predecessors had commanded a stable boost in corruption.

“We will not cover for any person,” López Obrador stated at a day-to-day news rundown, prior to voicing assistance for Cienfuegos’ follower at the head of the Army and his equivalent in the Navy, 2 of the most effective anchors of nationwide security in Mexico.

Mexico’s previous Defense Minister General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda goes to a flag-raising event in Mexico City.Daniel Becerril / Reuters file

“If we’re not talking about a narco state, one can certainly talk about a narco government, and without doubt, about a government of mafiosi,” López Obrador stated. “We’re cleaning up, purifying public life.”

Peña Nieto remained in workplace for 6 years, through December 2018. Several members of his cabinet and celebration have actually been linked in top-level corruption cases, in some cases including accusations of links to the mob.

Under Cienfuegos, the army was implicated of extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses, consisting of the 2014 Tlatlaya massacre, where 22 drug gang members were performed.

The militaries have actually taken a significantly popular function in combating criminal activity in Mexico, and have actually been seen by some as less vulnerable to corruption than police.

The detention of Cienfuegos begins the heels of the arrest of ex-President Felipe Calderón’s security minister, Genaro Garcia Luna, in Texas in 2019.

Luna is on trial in New York on suspicion of accepting countless dollars in allurements from Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, which he was entrusted with combating.

Elements of the army in the northern state of Sinaloa have actually long been reported to have links to the cartel previously headed by the criminal activity kingpin Guzmán, who managed much of the controlled substance trade throughout the Western Hemisphere for nearly 3 years.

Guzmán is now in a U.S. prison after being sentenced to life plus 30 years in July.

The U.S. and Mexican federal governments depicted Guzmán’s arrest and conviction as a significant success however experts state his Sinaloa cartel has actually continued to hum along without him in its reign of fear from its base in Culiacán.

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The top-level arrest of Cienfuegos comes less than 3 weeks prior to the U.S. governmental election.

President Donald Trump, looking for a 2nd term, made securing down on cartel activity a significant policy goal when he took workplace in 2017.

The war versus the cartels has actually taken a heavy toll on the Mexican individuals. There have actually been 150,000 killings associated with arranged criminal activity in Mexico considering that 2006, according to a Congressional Research report released this year. Some 73,000 individuals were likewise reported missing out on from 2007 to mid-2020, according to the federal government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment versus Cienfuegos in August of 2019.

Reuters added to this report.

Jonathan Dienst contributed.

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