Friday, October 30, 2020 | ePaper

Mexico's former defence minister is arrested in Los Angeles

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The New York Times :
A former Mexican defence minister was arrested Thursday night after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport with his family, according to the Mexican government, becoming the first high-ranking military official to be taken into custody in the United States in connection with drug-related corruption in his country.
The former official, Gen Salvador Cienfuegos, who was Mexico's defence minister from 2012 to 2018, was arrested by US officials at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration and will face drug and money-laundering charges in the United States, according to a federal law enforcement official in New York.
The news not only casts a pall over the nation's fight against organized crime but also underscores the forces of corruption that touch the highest levels of Mexico's government. Cienfuegos was defence minister throughout the administration of former President Enrique Peña Nieto.
"There has never been a minister of defence in Mexico arrested," said Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister. "The minister of defence in Mexico is a guy that not only runs the army and is a military man, but he reports directly to the president. There is no one above him except the president."
The exact charges that Cienfuegos will face were not immediately clear, and Drug Enforcement Administration officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Cienfuegos served as defence minister at a time when homicides spiked to historic levels and drug cartels waged war.
"This is a huge deal" said Alejandro Madrazo, a professor at CIDE, a university in Mexico City. "The military has become way more corrupt and way more abusive since the war on drugs was declared, and for the first time they may not be untouchable - but not by the Mexican government, by the American government."
Mexico's military has played a central role in public security since the crackdown on the drug cartels began in 2006, deploying soldiers to regions overrun by organized crime. The secretary of defence oversees that effort.
Suspicions of corruption in the Mexican military have long surfaced in private conversations. The crackdown on corruption has led to the arrest of politicians, police officers and even the official who was credited with creating the counternarcotics strategy that spawned the war on drugs.

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