Mexico’s ex-defense chief helped ship tons of cocaine and heroin, charges say

Mexico’s former protection minister Salvador Cienfuegos used his energy in workplace to guard the Beltran-Leyva cartel, directing army operations towards rival gangs and even discovering maritime transport to ship medication, U.S. prosecutors stated.

Cienfuegos, arrested at Los Angeles airport on Thursday, took bribes in return for defense that included warning cartel members about U.S. investigations, in keeping with prosecutors in New York who’ve charged him with 5 counts of drug trafficking and cash laundering.

The detention comes lower than three weeks earlier than the U.S. presidential election. President Donald Trump, searching for a second time period, has made clamping down on drug cartels a precedence, although with out main progress since he took workplace in 2017.

The arrest of Cienfuegos – nicknamed El Padrino, or The Godfather, in an August 2019 indictment that was sealed till he was in U.S. custody – marked the primary time a former Mexican protection minister has been indicted and detained.

His fall may have far reaching implications for Mexico’s drug struggle, which has been led by the armed forces for greater than a decade.

“In alternate for bribe funds, he permitted the H-2 Cartel – a cartel that routinely engaged in wholesale violence, together with torture and homicide – to function with impunity in Mexico,” U.S. prosecutors stated on Friday in a court docket submitting.

The H-2 Cartel is a reputation for the Beltran-Leyva gang below the management of Juan Francisco Patron. One of many Beltran-Leyva brothers was killed in 2009, one other arrested in 2014. By the point of Cienfuegos’ alleged crimes the gang had new management below Patron.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged to droop anybody inside his authorities implicated within the fees.

“We gained’t cowl up for anyone,” he stated, earlier than voicing fulsome help for Cienfuegos’ successor on the head of the military and his counterpart within the navy, noting he had personally vetted them and vouched for his or her honesty.

Lopez Obrador shortly integrated the arrest into his narrative that predecessors had presided over a debilitating improve in corruption in Mexico, which for years has been convulsed by usually horrific ranges of drug gang violence.

“If we’re not speaking a couple of narco state, one can actually speak about a narco authorities, and doubtless, a couple of authorities of mafiosi,” Lopez Obrador stated.

“We’re cleansing up, purifying public life.”

U.S. prosecutors say there seem to have been very shut ties between the minister and the H-2 gang, based by cousins of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and on the time engaged in a bloody struggle along with his Sinaloa cartel.

His safety helped the cartel ship tonnes of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into america with out vital interference from the Mexican army, prosecutors stated in a memo accompanying the indictment in U.S. District Courtroom for the Japanese District of New York.

In keeping with the court docket paperwork, which cite proof intercepted from Blackberry Messenger communications, Cienfuegos made certain army operations didn’t goal the cartel, focusing offensives on rival teams as a substitute.

He’s additionally accused of introducing the gang’s senior leaders to different Mexican officers in alternate for bribes. Info he handed on about cooperating witnesses in a U.S. investigation led to the homicide of a cartel member wrongly believed to be aiding U.S. regulation enforcement, the paperwork stated.

Among the many hundreds of intercepted communications, in keeping with U.S. prosecutors, had been many direct messages between Cienfuegos and a senior chief of the H-2 Cartel, together with ones by which the minister mentioned his historic help to a different drug trafficking group.

Cienfuegos is because of seem in a Los Angeles federal court docket afterward Friday earlier than being transferred to New York, the place prosecutors anticipate him to be arraigned within the coming weeks.

Reuters was not instantly capable of contact a lawyer the U.S. Legal professional’s workplace in Brooklyn stated was representing the defendant.

Reporting by Drazen Jorgic, Diego Oré, Frank Jack Daniel, Lizbeth Diaz and Dave Graham; Further reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Enhancing by Andrew Cawthorne, Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis

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