Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador recently deployed Mexico’s underutilized elite marine force to combat drug cartels, after facing pressure from the Trump administration to step up its fight against the flow of narcotics, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ noted that this decision represents a change from a “counternarcotics strategy that largely ended the pursuit of high-profile arrests and focused almost exclusively on poverty alleviation.”
“We are operating again,” one senior Mexican navy officer stated. He added, “The targets we need to go after have been defined.”
For a broader context, this strategy came about after growing concern from the Trump administration that Mexico has failed to keep the drug trade in check in light of last November’s cartel murder of nine American citizens. According to some estimates, Mexico’s total murders in 2019 is on the verge of exceeding 2018’s record of 36,685.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has led the charge in putting pressure on Mexico to step up its security measures.
On two occasions, Barr visited Mexico to encourage AMLO to use Mexican marines as part of a more robust counternarcotics plan against drug traffickers. Additionally, he advised AMLO to strengthen the extradition process of suspects who have escaped the U.S. while being wanted for crimes. Last month, Barr advised the Mexican government to target fentanyl labs, in addition to clamping down on seaports being used to deliver some of the chemical inputs used in the labs.
The Mexican marines, the Mexican security force which U.S. officials have the most confidence in, successfully carried out high-profile arrests and killings of cartel leaders during the last two decades. Most notable in these apprehensions, include the two times drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was arrested.
This new strategy is a stark contrast to AMLO’s “hugs, not bullets” approach which focused on addressing poverty instead of taking cartels head on. After all these are cartels that are using military weaponry, not conventional arms like regular criminals do.
Thanks to Trump’s pressure, AMLO is starting to get the memo and is beginning to take his country’s security seriously.
Former Mexican Defense Minister is Arrested in Los Angeles for Allegedly Protecting a Drug Cartel
More Proof that Mexico is An Institutional Dumpster Fire
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.
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