Wednesday, February 8, 2023

US threatens to end cooperation with Mexico in criminal matters

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The United States has threatened to stop sharing information about criminal investigations with Mexico after it released hundreds of pages of evidence gathered by US prosecutors against the country’s former defense minister – a case President Andrés Manuel López Obrador rejected as manufactured.

The decision, which raised bilateral tensions less than a week before Joe Biden’s inauguration, came Friday after the Mexican foreign ministry. published 751 pages of evidence, including transcripts of cell phone messages sent by US prosecutors to Mexico for his own investigation of General Salvador Cienfuegos.

Mexico’s attorney general’s office said it examined the evidence, found it to be baseless and dismissed the case.

Mr López Obrador then accused Washington of fabricating trafficking and money laundering charges against the retired four-star general, who was arrested in Los Angeles in October, but released and sent home a month later. after intense diplomatic pressure from Mexico.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the United States “fully supports their investigation and accusations in this matter” and was “deeply disappointed with Mexcio’s decision to confidently release the information shared with Mexico. “.

“The publication of such information violates the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between Mexico and the United States and calls into question the ability of the United States to continue to share information to support Mexico’s own criminal investigations,” added the spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the United States reserves the right to “resume prosecution of Cienfuegos if the Mexican government does not.”

The arrest of General Cienfuegos was deeply embarrassing for Mexico and sparked fury among senior military officials, many of whom were appointed by the former minister.

Mr. López Obrador made the armed forces a key ally, counting on them to build its flagship airport and other infrastructure projects, to bolster the ranks of its new police force and help distribute Covid-19 vaccines.

Mexico was not given advance notice of General Cienfuegos’ arrest, and Mr. López Obrador accused the United States of violating an international agreement by not sharing information on the case.

“This is a very deep and delicate question, but we cannot allow any doubt to be placed on the government of the Republic and / or its institutions, which is why we have taken the decision to make the file public in its entirety”, Mr. López Obrador said on Friday.

“We apologize to the United States government for acting this way because. . . they can say how dare they make this document public, ”he added.

But he said that the “prestige of the nation” was at stake and “we cannot be hostage to anyone and we have sufficient moral and political authority to make these decisions, which is why we will publish the dossier in his. entirety”.

He said the documents made it “clear that the evidence that would have been collected over many years was not strong” and that the United States Drug Enforcement Administration had acted with “very little professionalism.”

After General Cienfuegos returned home, Mexico passed a new law requiring foreign agents, such as DEA agents, to share information about his investigations – a move that threatened to hamper essential bilateral security and drug control cooperation.

This then softened some of the scope of the law in regulations, but a former senior military official said the new rules were still “unworkable”.

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