Mexico Pressures U.S. To Drop Drug Charges Against Its Former Top General


In October U.S. federal agents in Los Angeles arrested Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico’s top military official from 2012-2018 on drug smuggling charges. Nicknamed the Godfather, Cienfuegos had been the commanding general of the Mexican army and Mexico’s Defense Secretary.

Cienfuegos was indicted on four counts of drug conspiracy and money laundering, and charging documents, reported Vice, saying he “abused his public position’“ to “help the H-2 Cartel, an extremely violent Mexican drug trafficking organization, traffic thousands of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.”

According to the Financial Times, as part of the charges, he was accused of having exchanged thousands of unencrypted BlackBerry Messenger communications with the H-2 drug cartel. This spectacular arrest was meant to show that even the highest-ranking corrupt leaders in Mexico would not be immune from U.S. prosecution.

It also immediately threw US-Mexico relations into a tiff.

But now the U.S. agreed to drop all charges and return the retired general to Mexico to supposedly face an investigation there. Why the sudden, unprecedented reversal?

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (often called AMLO) and the Mexican government apparently put strong pressure on the U.S. to drop the charges and instead shows how far Mexico is willing to go to shield a senior military official from U.S. prosecution. It also demonstrates what the U.S. is willing to do give-up to keep its Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) operations in Mexico.

Vice noted that:

Mexican officials were caught off guard by Cienfuegos’ arrest on October 16, leaving them both infuriated and embarrassed. As they strategized a response, one of their main points of leverage centered on future cooperation on drug enforcement operations.

An order to expel U.S. law enforcement agents from the country was one of the threats made by Mexican officials, according to two sources familiar with the matter. That order would have included agents from the DEA, which has a strong presence in Mexico and works closely with Mexican security forces on anti-cartel investigations and operations.

Jorge Castañeda, Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003, was quoted by Vice as saying, “Regardless of whether the DEA guys are kicked out or not, the Americans depend enormously on the Mexican army. No matter how much the American guys distrust them, they know they are the only guys around.”

While this could be seen as a strategic necessity, it proved embarrassing for the DEA and the Department of Justice. It also set a very bad precedent. One U.S. official told Vice, “The government of Mexico learned a lot here in their dealings with us. They learned some buttons to push. Strategically, this was a loss.”


Paul Crespo

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank.

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Mike W
Mike W
3 days ago

Go back in history a little bit – Look up “Operation Casablanca”. This was a Treasury Dept. sting operation – bringing in drug traffickers by laundering their money. It was set up in California. Then one day they got a call from someone who wanted to launder a billion dollars. They knew that the only way that that much cash could move out of Mexico was by someone high up in the Mexican government. Before the deal could be made and the person arrested – orders came from high up in our government for the Treasury Dept. to shut down the operation immediately. Bill Clinton was president. Then look up when HSBC Bank was busted for laundering billions of dollars worth of drug cartel and terrorist money. Even though the high ups at HSBC admitted guilt they were let off with a slap on the wrist. Loretta Lynch tried that case. It was later reported that HSBC account holders “gave” $85,000,000 to the Clintons. The way HSBC laundered that money was to put ti thru phony accounts set up by using legitimate information gleaned from former account holders. So who were the “account holders” who gave the Clinton all that money? Now remember the Mena Airport in Arkansas – the cocaine smuggling ring that operated out of there while Bill Clinton was governor. Clinton swore up and down that no one in his family had anything to do with that. Yet just a few years later Bill Clinton gave a presidential pardon to his “brother” – Roger Clinton – who went to prison for cocaine distribution. Now Clinton mega donor Ed Buck is in jail charged with 5 felony counts regarding the deaths of 2 gay black men who turned up dead at Buck’s L.A. home and for methamphetamine distribution. The Clintons are connected to about as many drug dealers as they are pedophiles.

Daisy
Daisy
3 days ago

They are emboldened because they anticipate that Biden will be President and there will be no repercussions for what they do.

MikefromTexas
MikefromTexas
3 days ago

We need to stomp the liberals then do the same to the cartels.

Tractor Man
Tractor Man
3 days ago

Not to worry – Biden will cave to your demands and him and give him a cabinet position. (for a small fee payable to his son for consulting services)

Sandy
3 days ago

Sorry Mexico we do not condone drug peddlers in this country. Charges stand.

Gene Ralno
Gene Ralno
2 days ago

I’m thinking this is a major reason for Mexico’s widespread lawlessness and extremely weak military force. Recall recently, a cartel simply overwhelmed the Mexican army to free an imprisoned cartel boss.


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