U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Photo: On Cuba News


In a surprise move, U.S. Attorney General William Barr announced late Tuesday, Nov. 17, that his office would be dropping all charges against former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The decision to drop the charges against Cienfuegos in the United States came at the request of Mexico’s Fiscal General (FGR) in order for the Mexican government to conduct its own criminal investigation into allegations that he was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering.

A joint statement issued by Barr and Mexican Fiscal General Alejandro Gertz Manero Tuesday stated that Cienfuegos, who had been arrested in the United States on Oct. 15, on charges of “conspiracy to manufacture, import and distribute narcotics into the United States and money laundering,” would now be released of those charges.

“The Mexican Fiscalía General de la República, upon learning of the arrest and U.S. charges against General Cienfuegos, opened its own investigation,” the statement said.

“In recognition of the strong law enforcement partnership between Mexico and the United States, and in the interests of demonstrating our united front against all forms of criminality, the U.S. Department of Justice has made the decision to seek dismissal of the U.S. criminal charges against former Secretary Cienfuegos, so that he may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law.”

The statement also said that “at the request of the Mexican Fiscal General’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice, under the treaty that governs the sharing of evidence, has provided Mexico evidence in this case and commits to continued cooperation, within that framework, to support the investigation by Mexican authorities.”

“Our two countries remain committed to cooperation on this matter, as well as all our bilateral law enforcement cooperation,” it concluded.

“As the decision today reflects, we are stronger when we work together and respect the sovereignty of our nations and their institutions. This close partnership increases the security of the citizens of both our countries.”

Cienfuegos’ arrest in the United States, without the prior knowledge by Mexican authorities, stirred tensions between the two neighbors, leaving political egg on the face of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and leading to claims by some Mexicans of foreign intervention by U.S. authorities.

Cienfuegos Zepeda, who served as the country’s top military leader from 2012 to 2018, under former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, was the highest-ranking Mexican military official ever to be taken into custody in the United States in connection with drug-related crimes.

His arrest came 10 months after that of Peña Nieto’s top cop, Gerardo García Luna, who was indicted in New York for allegedly taking bribes while in office from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel.

…Nov. 17, 2020

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