WASHINGTON – The U.S. Justice Division is dropping its drug trafficking and cash laundering case towards former Mexican Protection Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos, Lawyer Basic William Barr stated Tuesday.
Barr stated the division would drop its case so Cienfuegos “could also be investigated and, if acceptable, charged, underneath Mexican regulation.” Cienfuegos, who was charged in federal court docket in Brooklyn, was arrested in Los Angeles final month.
Cienfuegos, a basic who led Mexico’s military division for six years underneath then President Enrique Peña Nieto, was the highest-ranking former Mexican Cupboard official arrested since prime safety official Genaro Garcia Luna was arrested in Texas in 2019.
Cienfuegos was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in 2019 and accused of conspiring to take part in a global drug distribution and cash laundering scheme. Prosecutors alleged he helped the H-2 cartel smuggle 1000’s of kilos of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana whereas he was protection secretary in 2012-2018.
Prosecutors stated intercepted messages confirmed that in change for bribes, Cienfuegos labored to make sure that the navy didn’t take motion towards the cartel and that operations had been initiated towards rivals. He was additionally accused of introducing cartel leaders to different corrupt Mexican officers.
Mexican Overseas Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard stated later at a information convention that Mexico had expressed its displeasure with not being suggested of the investigation towards Cienfuegos and requested, then acquired, the proof towards him.
“We do not see it as a path to impunity however somewhat as an act of respect towards Mexico and Mexico’s armed forces,” Ebrard stated.
Ebrard denied the choice was associated to the U.S. elections or the choice to not congratulate President-elect Joe Biden, noting he spoke with Barr on Oct. 26, every week earlier than the U.S. elections.
“It does not have something to do with it. They’re two completely different processes,” Ebrard stated.
He stated it nonetheless relied on the U.S. choose within the case. “Why are we speaking about it? As a result of the choose ordered or not it’s made public.”
Cienfuegos wouldn’t essentially be positioned in custody in Mexico. “In Mexico, he will probably be acquired by the Lawyer Basic’s Workplace,” Ebrard stated. “In what standing will he come? That of a Mexican citizen who doesn’t face costs in the USA at this second.”
In a court docket submitting, performing U.S. Lawyer Seth DuCharme stated dismissing the case could be “within the public curiosity of the USA.”
“America has decided that delicate and necessary overseas coverage concerns outweigh the federal government’s curiosity in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant …,” he wrote. The submitting added that “the proof on this case is powerful.”
In court docket papers final month, U.S. prosecutors argued Cienfuegos was a big flight danger and stated he would “seemingly search to leverage his connections to excessive degree H-2 Cartel members in Mexico, in addition to former high-level corrupt authorities officers, to help him in fleeing from U.S. regulation enforcement and shelter him in Mexico.”
Had he been convicted of the costs within the U.S., he would’ve confronted at the very least 10 years in federal jail.
Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of worldwide operations, stated the choice “is nothing greater than a present, an enormous reward” from President Donald Trump to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and stands out as the first in a sequence of politically motivated pardons or case closures within the closing days of the Trump administration.
Vigil referred to as the choice “completely discouraging and disappointing,” predicting that “there may be extra coming down the street” by way of pardons or case closings.
“Irrespective of the way you slice the pie, that is nothing greater than a final ditch favor to López Obrador,” Vigil stated, noting that “López Obrador has been very subservient to Donald Trump on immigration points and has hesitated in congratulating Joe Biden.”
“The probabilities of Cienfuegos being convicted in Mexico are slim to none,” Vigil stated, citing the previous protection secretary’s political connections in Mexico and the nation’s idolization of the navy.
“This sends a really adverse message to U.S. regulation enforcement companies, that Donald Trump is prepared to politically manipulate judicial proceedings,” he stated.
Below Cienfuegos, the Mexican military was accused of frequent human rights abuses, however that was true of each his predecessors and his successor within the submit. The worst scandal in Cienfuegos’ tenure concerned the 2014 military killings of suspects in a grain warehouse.
The June 2014 bloodbath concerned troopers who killed 22 suspects on the warehouse within the city of Tlatlaya. Whereas some died in an preliminary shootout with the military patrol — during which one soldier was wounded — a human rights investigation later confirmed that at the very least eight and maybe as many as a dozen suspects had been executed after they surrendered.
Barr stated in a joint assertion with Mexican Lawyer Basic Alejandro Gertz Manero that the U.S. Justice Division had made the choice to drop the U.S. case in recognition “of the robust regulation enforcement partnership between Mexico and the USA, and within the pursuits of demonstrating our united entrance towards all types of criminality.”
The Justice Division stated it has supplied Mexico with proof collected within the case.
Related Press author Maria Verza reported this story in Mexico Metropolis and AP author Michael Balsamo reported from Washington. AP author Mark Stevenson in Mexico Metropolis contributed to this report.
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