US extradites ex-Mexican minister suspected of drug trafficking to stand trial in his country

Audience sketch of former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos during his appearance at the Brooklyn courthouse in New York on November 18.

A dramatic turn in the affair of the former Mexican Minister of Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, arrested in mid-October in the United States for drug trafficking. An American judge approved, Wednesday, November 18, the abandonment of the proceedings against the 72-year-old general, who had led the war against the drug cartels from 2012 to 2018, specifying that he will be tried in Mexico. Unheard of in the complex security cooperation between the two neighbors.

Escorted by American marshals, Mr. Cienfuegos landed late Wednesday afternoon in Toluca, a city an hour’s drive from Mexico City. The day before, the United States Department of Justice and the Mexican prosecution issued a joint statement revealing the request made to New York Court Judge Carol Bagley Amon to “Withdraw the criminal charges against the former minister (…) so that he can be prosecuted under Mexican law ”.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Former Mexican Minister of Defense indicted in the United States for drug trafficking

A surprising decision when Mr. Cienfuegos was arrested on October 15 at Los Angeles airport by the American anti-drug agency (DEA). The latter accused him of drug trafficking and money laundering, between 2015 and 2017, on behalf of the H-2 cartel, heir to the Mafia organization of the Beltran Leyva brothers.

Diplomatic and political success for “AMLO”

On Wednesday, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard detailed to the press his diplomatic exchanges with Washington, expressing the ” dissatisfaction “ from Mexico City who had not been notified of this arrest. The offense had revealed the distrust of the American authorities towards the Mexican institutions, infiltrated by the cartels. Mr. Ebrard’s message was clear: “Without confidence in our institutions, it is impossible to continue our security cooperation. “ The warning aimed in particular at the pursuit of the activities of some fifty DEA agents on Mexican soil.

In the process, the Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (“AMLO”), reaffirmed that “Mexico is not a colony or a protectorate [américain] (…), but an independent and sovereign country ”. He went on to welcome Washington’s turnaround, a “Sign of confidence”. The DEA thus transmitted, on October 30, to the Mexican authorities the file of 743 pages incriminating Mr. Cienfuegos. Twelve days later, the Mexican prosecution received the evidence to open an investigation. According to the American justice system, before which the former minister declared himself innocent, this evidence consists largely of telephone recordings and messages between the general and members of the H-2 cartel, gathered without his knowledge in Mexico. by the DEA.

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