Mexico’s former Defense Secretary helped a drug cartel smuggle thousands of pounds of cocaine, heroin and marijuana into the United States. This is evident from court documents that were unsealed on Friday. The 72-year-old retired general did so in exchange for a bribe.
Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, one of the most influential military personnel in Mexico, was handcuffed at Los Angeles airport on Thursday. The former secretary and general appeared on Friday via video connection from a detention center in LA. He is currently held on suspicion of involvement in drug smuggling and proceeds laundering, it took the judge only five minutes to make a decision.
Abuse of power
Cienfuegos, nicknamed El Padrino or The Godfather, served as Secretary of Defense under President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018.
He was arrested after a charge in a New York court. In this hefty indictment, the seventy is accused of abusing his position of power to protect the Mexican Beltran-Leyva drug cartel. He is also said to have led operations against rival drug gangs and also arranged sea transports for drug trafficking.
The drug cartel itself is also accused in Mexico of trafficking hundreds of firearms and committing numerous heinous acts of violence, including torture and murder.
“In exchange for bribes, he allowed the cartel, which routinely engages in large-scale violence, to operate with impunity in Mexico,” court documents say. Prosecutors are expected to ask for Cienfuegos to be transferred to New York next week so that he can stand trial there.
Cienfuegos began his military career in 1964 at the age of 15 and finished it as a defense minister a few years ago. Its “demise” has far-reaching implications for Mexico’s anti-trust strategy, which has been largely led by the Mexican military for over a decade, Reuters raises.
In response to the arrest, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expressed full confidence in Cienfuegos ‘successor at the head of the army and also in the current chief of the Navy, whom he had’ personally screened ‘and in which he’ vouches for their honesty ‘.
He said it is his predecessors who bear the responsibility for years of growing corruption and horrific violence by drug gangs in Mexico. “If we are not talking about a narco state, we can certainly speak of a narco government, and without a doubt a mafia government,” said Lopez Obrador.
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