Former Mexican Defense Minister is Arrested in Los Angeles for Allegedly Protecting a Drug Cartel
Retired Mexican General Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested on October 15, 2020.
According to allegations from U.S. prosecutors, General Cienfuegos received bribes from a powerful Mexican cartel and allowed to smuggle drugs into the United States.
An indictment that was unsealed on October 17, revealed that from December 2015 to February 2017, while he served as Mexico’s Secretary of National Defense, Cienfuegos allegedly worked on behalf of a drug cartel. In working with this drug cartel, Cienfuegos earned the nickname of “El Padrino” (The Godfather) by helping the H-2 Cartel move drugs from Mexico to the U.S.
“The defendant [Cienfuegos] abused that 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,” prosecutors contended in a letter sent to a U.S. District Court judge in New York.
“In exchange for bribe payments,” the letter argued, he allowed the cartel “to operate with impunity in Mexico” while it operated distribution networks in cities such as Los Angeles and Las Vegas and in other states such as Ohio, Minnesota, North Carolina and New York.
U.S. agents took the retired general into custody on October 15 at Los Angeles International Airport. Cienfuegos is expected to be transferred to New York.
Cienfuegos served as defense secretary from 2012 to 2018 under the administration of then-President Enrique Peña Nieto.
“The main problem in Mexico is corruption,” López Obrador declared during a news briefing on October 16 regarding the incident.
In López Obrador’s view, it is “regrettable” that someone in such a high position of government has deep connections to drug cartels.
“This is a process of progressive degradation,” López Obrador continued, “and we are trying now to figure out how deep the corruption goes.”
As of now, Cienfuegos is the most prominent Mexican official to have been arrested on drug trafficking charges. In 2019, U.S. authorities arrested Genaro García Luna, the Secretary of Public Security under the administration of former President Felipe Calderón, for allegedly being involved in drug trafficking.
According to the U.S. indictment, Cienfuegos was working with H-2, an alleged branch of the Beltrán-Leyva criminal cartel. On top of that, prosecutors claims that the retired general received bribes to shield the cartel and its leaders. He then proceeded to inform them beforehand of military actions planned against them and even used troops to attack a rival cartel.
Mexico is clearly on the ropes institutionally. With a current president (AMLO) who wants to take a “hugs not bullets” approach to crime, the country will continue to spiral into chaos as drug cartels become even more powerful. President Trump has been right all along in building a wall to protect America from the potential spillover effects of Mexico’s drug war.