Salvador Cienfuegos Wiki – Salvador Cienfuegos Biography
Mexico’s former defense minister was arrested Thursday by US authorities at the request of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the last of a number of former high-ranking officials linked to drug corruption.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter that General Salvador Cienfuegos, who served as defense minister under President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018, was arrested when he arrived at Los Angeles International Airport.
He added that General Cienfuegos was traveling with his family.
General Cienfuegos is the highest-ranking Mexican official arrested in connection with drug-related corruption. In the late 1990s, another high-ranking army leader, the anti-drug tsar General Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison for bribing drug cartels. He died in prison in 2013.
The arrest will give a political momentum to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who built his political career to condemn corruption between Mexico’s political and economic elite. The arrest also raises serious concerns about the Mexican military being used to seize drug gangs, and came less than a year after Genaro Garcia Luna, former head of the Mexican federal police, was detained. He led the country’s war against drug cartels during the rule of President Felipe Calderon.
Mr. Garcia Luna was arrested in 2019 by the Sinaloa Cartel on charges of bribing him to allow shipment of cocaine to the United States and is in prison in New York pending trial.
In recent months, two senior lieutenants of Mr. Garcia Luna have also been charged in New York in connection with his case. Luis Cárdenas Palomino and Ramón Pequeño, former head of the Mexican Federal Police’s anti-narcotics division, face similar charges of receiving millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.
“In exchange for millions of dollars in bribes, the defendants allegedly allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to go unpunished in Mexico,” the US law firm for the East District of New York said in a statement. He added that the two are “currently on the run”.
The three were indicted after information emerging accusing Mr. Garcia Luna at the 2019 New York trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the former head of the Sinaloa Cartel. During the trial, a witness stated that he had given Mr. Garcia Luna $ 3 million in cartel money in a suitcase, which he denied at the time.
Violence has skyrocketed in Mexico since 2005, as heavily armed drug cartels waged war on each other for lucrative smuggling routes and markets. An attack on the cartels ordered by President Calderón during 2006-2012 only sparked more bloodshed as the gangs disintegrated and entered even more brutal zone wars. More than 200,000 people died.
Ever since the 1960s, when Mexican army patrols began efforts to eliminate marijuana and poppy plantations, the Mexican military has been at the forefront of the country’s attack on organized crime. The use of the military rather than professional police forces has raised concerns about the potential for corruption among the highest ranks of the Mexican military.
Raúl Benítez, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the arrest of Mr. Cienfuegos on drug charges would be devastating for the Mexican military. The military became one of the main pillars of support for President López Obrador’s government. Among other things, the military plays a key role in the deployment of a new National Guard amid growing criminal violence and was also commissioned to build a new airport for Mexico City.
“This will demoralize them,” said Mr. Benitez. “The army felt very powerful.”
A high-ranking former US defense official said he was surprised by the arrest. “We never made anything wrong,” the former official said. “Out of the way of strengthening relations with the USA”
Successive administrations, starting with Mr. Calderón, tried to form the federal police force, but the arrest of Mr. Garcia Luna shows that the effort is also tainted.
Mr. Ebrard said that Mexico’s Los Angeles consul will offer consular assistance to General Cienfuegos and report the charges leading to his arrest.