In October this year, Salvador Cienfuegos, former Mexican Defense Minister, was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for drug-related crimes. However, on Tuesday (17th), U.S.
Attorney General Barr announced that he would withdraw the charges against Cienfuegos and repatriate him to Mexico for foreign policy considerations. However, foreign media revealed that there was another hidden secret in this matter.
The “godfather” of Mexican drug trafficking groups has surfaced.
Cienfuegos, who served as Mexican Defense Secretary from 2012 to 2018, was arrested on vacation in Los Angeles in October this year, according to CNN, Reuters and The New York Times.
According to the indictment released by the Court for the Eastern District of New York, during his long tenure as the Ministry of Defense in late 2015 and the beginning of 2017, Cienfuegos accepted bribes from drug cartels to allow drug cartels to operate in Mexico. He is also suspected of money laundering and conspiracy to sell drugs in many cities in the United States, and participating in the trafficking of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana.
The New York Times revealed that Seanfuegos’ arrest originated from an investigation called Operation Padrino.
“Padrino” is a powerful central figure in the Mexican drug trafficking transaction, known as the “godfather” of the drug trafficking group, “is a mysterious and powerful force”. For a long time, American law enforcement officials have tried to unveil Padrino and monitor drug dealers. Law enforcement officials have always suspected that Padrino is a senior official of the Mexican military. Until recent months, the investigation has finally made progress.
A surveillance drug dealer told his accomplice that “Padrino” appeared on TV. Law enforcement officials who obtained this information quickly investigated, and finally confirmed that one of Mexico’s most violent drug trafficking gangs mysterious sponsors was Sienfuegos, the military leader responsible for combating drug trafficking groups.
On October 15, Seanfuegos was arrested while going to Los Angeles for a holiday.
Mexico puts pressure on the United States to release people.
However, the arrest of Cienfuegos aroused dissatisfaction on the Mexican side.
After the incident, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that he had talked to U.S. Attorney General Barr on the matter and expressed Mexico’s dissatisfaction with the arrest of Cienfuegos and the “lack of information sharing in the investigation process”.
Eblad said that there is an alliance between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime, so it is incomprehensible for the Mexican government not to be notified as an ally.
According to a Mexican government official, the Mexican government had asked the United States to withdraw the charges against Cienfuegos and threatened to cancel the cooperation agreement between the two countries to combat drug trafficking and return American agents in Mexico. The official said that Mexico could not bring its own charges against Cienfuegos until the United States withdrew the charges against him, which was regarded by Mexico as an important step to improve the relationship between the United States and Mexico.
After pressure from Mexico, the attitude of the United States has relaxed. According to Reuters on the 21st, at the request of U.S. Attorney General Barr, a U.S. federal judge withdrew the charges against Seanfugos on Tuesday (17th) and sent him back to Mexico the next day, on the grounds that the United States considers more foreign policy than the prosecution of the charges themselves, and also Trust in Mexican justice. According to the agreement reached between the two sides, Cienfuegos will be under investigation in Mexico.
But things are far from so simple. Reuters said that according to sources, the United States and Mexico actually made another deal.
In return for the release of Cienfuegos by the United States, Mexico promised to cooperate with the United States to arrest a senior drug trafficking group leader suspected of smuggling large quantities of the opioid fentanyl into the United States.
In response to this statement, both the United States and Mexico categorically denied it. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice said that the two sides had not reached a similar agreement. Mexican Foreign Minister spokesman Daniel Millan also said: “We have reached a consensus to maintain a united front in combating crime while respecting each other’s sovereignty.”
“You never know who you are working with”
The New York Times noted that the damage to Mexico by the Cienfuegos involvement in drugs “can’t be overstated.” The news not only casts a shadow on Mexico’s fight against organized crime, but also highlights the level of corruption at the highest level of government.”
In fact, Mexico’s top drug involvement is not an isolated case. Just 10 months before Cienfuegos’ arrest, another senior official who used to be the Mexican FBI was also indicted in the United States for accepting bribes to provide an “umbrella” for the Mexican Sinaloa drug trafficking group.
Mike Vigil, former head of the International Operations Department of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), said that when working with Mexican law enforcement, people always worry that family members, informants or investigations will face threats from “partners”.
“The difficulty of doing this work in Mexico is that you never know who you’re working with.”