According to the newspaper, the arrest of Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, accused of helping a Beltrán Leyva cartel, provoked the anger of Mexican military officials.
MEXICO CITY (WSJ) – “The arrest in October in the United States of the ex-Minister of Defense of Mexico, Salvador Cienfuegos (accused of drug trafficking and money laundering), unleashed anger among high Mexican military officials, who saw the action as a humiliation and violation of the country’s sovereignty.” The American newspaper Wall Street Journal thus summarizes the crossroads faced by Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his counterpart, Donald Trump.
Since last October 15, when the former military chief was apprehended during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), in Los Angeles, California, Mexico has launched an unprecedented diplomatic crusade to bring the general back. On November 6, the day of Cienfuegos Zepeda’s first hearing in the United States, the Mexican prosecutor’s office reportedly received in its offices the complete investigation that the DEA was accumulating against the former official.
Before the second hearing, both administrations announced the agreement between their respective prosecutors’ offices: Cienfuegos would return to Mexico free of charges.
Cienfuegos had been under investigation by the DEA for a decade; however, the Mexican Foreign Ministry was only notified of the operation on the day of the capture.
The Wall Street Journal states that “the arrest stirred up anti-American nationalist passions in the armed forces. The serious charges against Cienfuegos -signaled for helping a split of the Beltrán Leyvas-, beyond eroding the six-year term and the figure of Peña Nieto, meant a torpedo for the credibility of the Mexican Army turned into one of the fundamental pillars in the current government. Lopez Obrador and other officials were concerned that Mexico’s failure to stop the arrest of General Cienfuegos would generate tensions with the military and hinder the government’s ability to meet the president’s priorities,” the newspaper quoted.
The WSJ mentions that Jesus Ramirez, spokesman for Lopez Obrador, confirmed the version about the discontent among army officials, but denied that they had pressured the government. “López Obrador said that the government’s action sought respect for the Mexican state and its sovereignty,” details the article Mexico’s President Pushed Hard for Release of General Arrested in the U.S.
Many analysts and former military members are skeptical that Cienfuegos will ever set foot in a courtroom in Mexico because of the role the military plays in the Lopez Obrador government. “The Mexican prosecutor, Alejandro Gertz Manero, will go ahead with the pretext of investigating Cienfuegos, but nothing will come of it because he is untouchable,” assures Gladys McCormick, professor at Syracuse University, quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
In Mexico, the Army constitutes the majority of the new National Guard, the controversial security body created by the current government, to confront the country’s insecurity and violence. Recently, the military’s power extended to the ports and customs, where it intends to fight the endemic corruption forged during the previous six years.
The government of López Obrador now faces the challenge of initiating a rigorous and transparent investigation of the general, dispelling the doubts of impunity or favoritism flying around in public opinion since the agreement was first made. The burden will fall on the Attorney General’s Office, created just two years ago, intending to end corruption and impunity.
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