MEXICO CITY — A former Mexican protection minister was arrested on Thursday night time after arriving at Los Angeles Worldwide Airport together with his household, in accordance with the Mexican authorities, changing into the primary high-ranking navy official to be taken into custody in america in reference to drug-related corruption in his nation.
The previous official, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, who was Mexico’s protection minister from 2012 to 2018, was arrested by American officers on the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration and can face drug and money-laundering prices in america, in accordance with a federal regulation enforcement official in New York.
The information not solely casts a pall over the nation’s battle in opposition to organized crime, it additionally underscores the forces of corruption that contact the best ranges of Mexico’s authorities. Common Cienfuegos was protection minister all through the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto, and the arrest
“There has by no means been a minister of protection in Mexico arrested,” mentioned Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican international minister. “The minister of protection in Mexico is a man that not solely runs the military and is a navy man, however he studies on to the president. There isn’t any one above him besides the president.”
The precise prices that Common Cienfuegos will face weren’t instantly clear, and Drug Enforcement Administration officers didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Common Cienfuegos served as protection minister at a time when homicides spiked to historic ranges and drug cartels waged warfare.
“It is a large deal” mentioned Alejandro Madrazo, a professor at CIDE, a college in Mexico Metropolis. “The navy has change into far more corrupt and far more abusive for the reason that warfare on medication was declared, and for the primary time they might not be untouchable — however not by the Mexican authorities, by the American authorities.”
Mexico’s navy has performed a central function in public safety for the reason that crackdown on the drug cartels started in 2006, deploying troopers to areas overrun by organized crime. The secretary of protection oversees that effort.
Suspicions of corruption within the Mexican navy have lengthy surfaced in personal conversations. The crackdown on corruption has led to the arrest of politicians, cops and even the official who was credited with creating the counternarcotics technique that spawned the warfare on medication.
However the navy has had a rare quantity of autonomy, seldom bowing to political pressures and usually having fun with safety by the president, who depends on them for the nation’s home protection.
With the navy is entrance and heart within the battle in opposition to narcotics trafficking, the Mexican authorities has by no means constructed an efficient police power. Using troopers who’re educated in fight however not policing has introduced issues of its personal.
The navy has repeatedly been singled out for human rights abuses and the usage of extreme power, together with accusations of extrajudicial killings that dogged the armed forces all through Common Cienfuegos tenure as protection minister.
However no high-ranking Mexican navy official has been charged with cash laundering and drug trafficking. Such prices would characterize a brand new entrance within the effort to fight the corruption and extraordinary energy wielded by organized crime in Mexico.
The earlier important case within the battle in opposition to drug-related corruption in Mexico was in December 2019, when the authorities in america arrested Genaro García Luna, the previous public safety secretary and architect of the nation’s warfare on cartels. He was accused of working for one of many cartels he was purported to be pursuing.
Common Cienfuegos’s arrest doesn’t seem to have been a joint operation with the Mexican authorities. International Minister Marcelo Ebrard mentioned in a Twitter put up that he was instructed solely Thursday night time by america ambassador that the previous protection minister had been taken into custody.
Natalie Kitroeff contributed reporting.