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What Will Be the Ramifications of U.S. Arrest of Top Mexican General on Drug Charges?

Oct. 22, 2020 (EIRNS)—Retired Mexican Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, who had served as Minister of Defense for the entirety of the previous Peña Nieto Administration, was arrested by the DEA on Oct. 15 at the Los Angeles International Airport, when he arrived with his family for a vacation. Indicted on four counts of trafficking cocaine, heroin, meth and marijuana and associated money laundering stemming from his alleged role as protector of the Beltran-Leyva “H-2” gang in the same New York federal court handling the “El Chapo” drug kingpin case, he was denied bail on Oct. 20 and ordered sent to New York, where he will face trial in the same New York federal court which is handling the “El Chapo” drug kingpin case.

Cienfuegos is the highest level Mexican military officer ever so charged, and the case is being spun variously as interested parties desire (against the military, against Trump’s relations with Mexican President López Obrador, etc.). EIR does not have any independent knowledge of the facts alleged, but it does know one key fact about Cienfuegos: On Oct. 5, 2018, during a visit to the heroin-dominated state of Guerrero, he called for a national debate on the advantages of legalizing opium production and placing it under government control, in a system wherein Mexican peasants would sell their poppies to a state-run agency, which would produce morphine for “suffering patients”—exactly what British legalizers in the House of Lords and the City of London had been proposing for Afghanistan for decades.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was informed two weeks before about the indictment by U.S. officials; he reported on Oct. 19. Mexico has not—yet—been provided with evidence backing up the charge, he said, but if the charges are proven, there will be no impunity for Cienfuegos or any other military officer working with him. At the same time, he slammed the media which were smearing the entire Mexican military as narcos and demanding he stop deploying military engineers and doctors in national projects. “We cannot call for weakening an institution like the Army.... We must target the problem well, encapsulate it, confront it, root out that evil, and protect the entire institution.... It is a pillar of the Mexican state,” he told reporters.

The question of who backed Cienfuegos in the United States—specifically in the Obama Administration—is being raised by some Mexican media. López Obrador did not raise this explicitly in his press conference, but he commented that there were various top Mexicans from previous administrations who, like Cienfuegos, had been arrested in the U.S. when they had traveled there thinking they were safe, because they had been of service to U.S. agencies when they were in the Mexican government, and so they were very confident “that nothing would ever happen to them.”

The President called the situation “very disgraceful.” One of the reasons the Mexican people voted for a “transformation” in the July 2018 Presidential elections, was precisely because the previous Mexican governments had become “narco-governments.” But those governments were also “totally infiltrated by foreign agencies” who made the security and drug combat decisions, he made clear. He pointed again to the scandalous “Fast and Furious” gun-running operation—under which over 2,000 assault weapons went into the hands of primarily the Sinaloa drug cartel—run under President Barack Obama. López Obrador demanded that the U.S. authorities today provide Mexico information on this operation, which has so far been withheld. He again thanked Trump “for respecting us. On two or three occasions he [Trump] offered to ... send personnel to confront the criminal gangs and I have respectfully told him no, that this is a matter we Mexicans must handle.”

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