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Mexican President Reacts to Arrest of Former Military General in Los Angeles

(Noted News) — In mid-October, former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles on drug and money laundering charges, becoming the latest in a series of arrests of senior Mexican officials accused of working with the drug cartels. 

Expected to be in court by October 23, Cienfuegos was the main military authority during President Enrique Pena Nieto’s presidency from 2012 to 2018, playing a big role in the “war on drugs”. 

Current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, aka ‘Amlo’, conceded that though the arrests were likely evidence of rampant corruption in the old government administration, he still believes the DEA is keeping its own secrets. 

Speaking to supporters in the state of Oaxaca, the president noted that both American and Mexican officials purposely allowed guns to be trafficked into the country just so they could try and trace them back to the drug cartels, allowing many people to die. Yet according to Lopez Obrador, only Mexico is ever held accountable. 

“Why is it that it’s just the people in Mexico who took part in these acts being accused or implicated, and [the DEA] aren’t criticizing themselves, reflecting on the meddling by all these agencies in Mexico? They came into the country with complete freedom, they did whatever they wanted.”

72-year-old Cienfuegos is the second former Mexican cabinet official to be arrested by American authorities on drug charges this year. Mexico’s former public security secretary Genaro Garcia Luna was also arrested in Texas in 2019 for allegedly facilitating large shipments of cocaine into the United States. 

And two of Cienfuegos’ top federal police lieutenants, Luis Cardenas Palomino and Ramon Pequeno, were also charged in New York for allegedly allowing the Sinaloa Cartel to do whatever they want in exchange for multi-million dollar bribes.

Cienfuegos’ alleged crimes are reported to have taken place between December 2015 and January 2017, according to the indictment by prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York. Cienfuegos is also accused of allowing the Beltran Levya cartel to “operate with impunity”, and arresting and torturing rival gangs in exchange for money.

President Lopez Obrador has conceded to the existing problems with the various cabinets in the Mexican government, but says that the current military generals are “incorruptible.”

“As lamentable and scandalous as it is, you can’t discredit as a whole an institution as important as the Defense Ministry,” 

He also insists that the officials could not have acted alone, possibly implying involvement from the DEA.

“You can’t imagine something like this happening without intermediaries. There have to be other people involved.”

Lopez Obrador’s maintenance of faith in the military is unsurprising, considering the heavy role they play in his agenda of stopping organized crime. Under considerable pressure to fulfill his promises, the president came into power 12 years after a militarized crackdown on the drug cartels began, which was a disaster that left 200,000 dead and more than 37,000 people missing.

Mexico’s murder rate is also at a record high, and the notorious corruption that plagues Mexico’s law enforcement is as bad as ever. 

Mexican congresswoman Maria Alvarado is openly criticizing the current state of her country and the president’s strategy to tackle it.

“More than 90% of crimes end up going unpunished, and the country is still seriously suffering from not having a professional police force.”

Political science professor Denise Dresser says that Amlo’s strategy is the same as previous presidents except worse.

“Amlo’s security plan is the same as Calderón and [outgoing President Enrique] Peña Nieto, but on steroids. More soldiers, fewer civilian controls; more soldiers, fewer police.”

Lopez Obrador has implied that he will not go after old cabinet ministers for corruption, raising questions as to whether or not anything has changed within the Mexican government. 

“Vengeance is not my strong point, and I don’t think it’s good for the country to get bogged down chasing those accused of corruption,” he said on Tuesday.

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