Saturday, March 25, 2023

Mexico clears former defense minister accused by US of cartel links

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Mexico has accused the United States of fabricating drug trafficking charges against its former defense minister, but has worked to allay fears that security cooperation would be broken by watering down a law to restrict the operations of US anti-narcotics officers in Mexico.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told a press conference that the Mexican attorney general’s office would not proceed with a case that “was fabricated against Gen [Salvador] Cienfuegos ”by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, adding that it had found no evidence of the allegations against him.

“We are not child’s play. . . for foreign governments, ”he added, calling the American case“ an investigation without foundation, without evidence ”.

The decorated four-star general was arrested at the request of the DEA in Los Angeles in October, causing a storm in Mexico because the government of Mr. López Obrador’s had not been notified in advance. U.S. prosecutors had argued that their case, which included thousands of BlackBerry messages allegedly intercepted between the general and the boss of a little-known drug cartel, was strong.

Few in Mexico expected national charges to be laid, given the military’s power and its proximity to the president.

Under pressure from furious military leaders, many of whose high ranking officers were appointed by General Cienfuegos, Mr. López Obrador launched an unprecedented diplomatic push. got his release in November and go home to investigate.

However, the attorney general’s office said in a statement that its analysis of the evidence sent by the United States “concluded that General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda had never had a meeting with members of the criminal organization on which US authorities were investigating or contacting them. at all or do anything to protect or help these people ”.

He said he found no evidence that General Cienfuegos had used electronic communications or received illicit cash.

Mr. López Obrador said all evidence sent by the United States to Mexico would be made public on Friday.

Following the general’s return, Mexico passed a security law requiring DEA agents to share information with Mexican authorities that could deprive them of diplomatic immunity. Experts criticized the law, saying it would hamper essential bilateral security cooperation.

But regulations published in the official gazette watered down the law, requiring foreign agents to provide written details about when, who they met and why, but not the content of the meetings – what analysts called a blink of an eye. eye on cooperation with the new administration of US President-elect Joe Biden.

“Mexico – as expected – has dropped all charges against former Defense Secretary Cienfuegos – bad,” tweeted Vanda Felbab-Brown, a security expert at the Brookings Institution. “The Mexican government has issued guidelines softening bad laws destroying bilateral security cooperation – better.

But a former senior military official said that was still enough to slow down cooperation. “We can only assume that the relationship between the American and Mexican military is deeply broken and will remain so for some time. . . the bad guys should be very happy! “

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