US Arrests Former Mexican Defence Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Over Undisclosed Charges

Elias Hubbard
October 16, 2020

Mexico's government militarized the fight against the drug cartels in 2006, since when more than 296,000 people have been murdered, according to the authorities, who say most of the killings are linked to gang violence.

Salvador Cienfuegos, right, with former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in 2017.

Ebrard said on Twitter that he had been informed by the USA ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau, that Cienfuegos, who was defense chief from 2012-2018, was detained at Los Angeles airport.

Elements of the army in the northern state of Sinaloa have always been rumored to have links to the cartel formerly headed by crime kingpin Guzman, who controlled much of the illegal drug trade across the Western Hemisphere for nearly three decades.

A Mexican diplomatic source said members of Cienfuegos' family, traveling with him at the time of the detention, have already been released.

Cienfuegos served as Mexico's top Military official under the Pena Nieto administration from 2012 o 2018.

Mexico's former public security minister, Genero Garcia Luna, is awaiting trial in New York City on charges he accepted bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Garcia Luna, an architect of Mexico's war on drug trafficking, pleaded not guilty.

Cienfuegos is 72 years old and has retired from active duty.

Federal authorities in California arrested Mexico's former secretary of defense.

Mike Vigil, the DEA's former chief of worldwide operations, said when he was in Mexico in 2012 he heard corruption allegations about Cienfuegos.

"There were always allegations of corruption, nothing we could sink our teeth into".

"This detention is going to have a powerful impact in Mexico", said military affairs analyst Raul Benitez.

"The corruption is just coming to roost, because individuals who were once untouchable are now getting arrested", Vigil said.

DEA Los Angeles Division spokesperson Nicole Nishida confirmed the arrest to Reuters but would not provide details of the warrant or the circumstances of Cienfuegos' arrest.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador accuses his predecessors of rampant corruption. In June 2014, soldiers killed 22 suspects at the warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya. While some died in an initial shootout with the army patrol - in which one soldier was wounded - a human rights investigation later found that at least eight and perhaps as many as a dozen suspects were executed after they surrendered.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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