According to the statement issued by Attorney General William Barr, the US Justice Department is all set to drop the drug trafficking and money laundering cases against former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos.
Barr said that this is done so that Cienfuegos may be investigated by the Mexican authorities according to their law and charged appropriately in Mexico. Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles last month and charted in federal Court in Brooklyn.
Cienfuegos worked as a general in the army department for close to six years under President Enrique Pena Nieto. He was one of the highest-ranking officers to get arrested on such charges in the US. Earlier in 2019, Genero Garcia Luna, who worked as a security official in the Mexican army, was arrested in Texas.
Coming to Cienfuegos, he was accused of involvement in drug distribution and money laundering at an international level. According to Prosecutors, he helped the H2 cartel to smuggle heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine during his tenure as defense secretary between 2012 and 2018.
Other than that, several other serious charges were leveled against the former defense secretary in the US. He was also accused of taking bribes from the drug cartel for supporting them in their activities. In exchange for bribes, he often ensured that the military did not take action against his favored cartels and only took action against rival cartels. He was also accused of introducing the drug cartel leaders to several other Mexican officials to facilitate their work at the US and Mexico border.
Marcelo Ebrard, who works as Foreign Affairs Secretary for Mexico, said that they were not happy with how the case was initiated against Cienfuegos in the US. He said that they did not receive evidence about his involvement in the initial stages, and it was only now that they had got the investigation report about him from the US.
However, Ebrard said that this is not seen as a path to impunity, and the latest decision by the US to drop charges against Cienfuegos shows the respect the US has towards the armed forces of Mexico. On an interesting note, Ebrard denied that this decision was related to the US elections in any manner. He did not congratulate Joe Biden so far after the elections. However, he had spoken with Barr on October 26 to discuss the issue.
Ebrard said that US elections and the decision to drop the charges against Cienfuegos were separate issues, and there was no connection between them. However, some political analysts say that this happened only due to Trump’s friendship with the Mexican leaders.
The US Attorneys working on the case said that dismissing the case was in the US’s public interest and would allow the Mexican authorities to investigate the case in their country and deal with the issue according to their law. Even though there was substantial evidence in this situation, it was a sensitive issue considering the relations between the two countries, and several foreign policy issues were considered while taking the decision.
The prosecutors had argued in Court last month that Cienfuegos was a significant flight risk, and there were chances he would escape from the US and seek shelter in Mexico given his political connections in his country and his contacts with the H2 cartel. According to prosecutors, if the charges were pressed against him in the US, he would face up to 10 years in federal prison.
Mike Vigil, who earlier worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said that this was nothing but a tremendous gift from the Trump administration to Mexican President. He also added this was just the beginning of such politically motivated pardons and case closures between the countries. This was discouraging for the law enforcement team working in the US as they cannot bring the convicted to justice in this manner.
Such politically motivated decisions will affect the morale of law enforcement agencies in the US. This will send a wrong signal to the people involved in the drug cartels that they can get away with the crimes when they have good political connections back in Mexico. If the case gets transferred to Mexico, they can easily get away with their influence among the military administration.