The United States puts under the magnifying glass the links of the Mexican authorities with drug trafficking

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The arrest of General Cienfuegos joins names like Genaro García Luna and other officials brought to justice 3,000 kilometers from the border

The United States justice has included another key figure in Mexico’s war on drug trafficking on its to-do list. The arrest of General Salvador Cienfuegos, Secretary of Defense in the Enrique Peña Nieto Administration (2012-2018), is the latest blow to a high-profile government commander and has once again brought suspicions of links between the authorities in the spotlight. Mexicans have had with criminal groups. The name of Cienfuegos joins that of Genaro García Luna, drug czar of former President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), and those of two of his subordinates: Luis Cárdenas Palomino and Ramón Pequeno. While the scandals multiply in the country, the defendants do not answer in the Mexican courts, but in the Court of the Eastern District of New York, 3,000 kilometers from the border.

“It is a serious matter, without a doubt, because the accusation, if proven, will mean that there was no independent government, but that there was, if not a narco-state, a narco-government, that is extremely serious,” declared López Obrador on September 23 at his morning conference. The president of Mexico has capitalized on the trial of García Luna, who pleaded not guilty last week, as a political weapon against Calderón, his main antagonist.

The latest cases show that political scandals are brewing in Mexico and judicial work is taking place in the United States. The Eastern Court of New York has not only put García Luna on the bench, it also sentenced Joaquín El Chapo Guzman. It was at the trial against the leader of the Sinaloa cartel that the first lurid details about the bribes, the pacts to turn a blind eye and the consensual drug trafficking rocked Mexico.

The revelations, however, were not anecdotal. It is considered that several key witnesses in El Chapo’s trial will once again collaborate to put Calderón’s former Secretary of Security behind bars, in a trial that threatens to splatter the former president. Ishmael’s brother May Zambada, Jesús El Rey Zambada, Guzmán’s partner in Sinaloa, stated that the organization had paid him millions of dollars.

The former president declared that he had no knowledge of the crimes for which one of his most trusted men was accused. In addition, the investigations revealed the names of Cárdenas Palomino and Pequeno, who have occupied positions of power in practically all federal security offices, especially during the governments of the conservative National Action Party, first with Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and later with Calderón.

The Cienfuegos case sets an even more serious precedent. Mexico does not remember another military man of a similar rank tried in the United States. This is the most important blow to the Mexican Army since the arrest of Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo in 1997, considered the anti-drug czar of the Government of Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), sentenced in 2007 to 40 years in prison for links to organized crime. Rebollo was singled out for protecting the Juárez cartel, a pioneer in drug trafficking to the United States and one of the most powerful criminal groups in the 1980s and 1990s.

The accusations for drug trafficking have now reached Cienfuegos, detained at the request of the DEA. Suspicions of pacts and protected criminal groups had already been present in the almost 15 years of war against drug trafficking, but the image that some actors were untouchable as well. The United States, which according to the first versions, stopped Cienfuegos by surprise at an airport, hopes that this photograph will be shattered.

“There were always suspicions of corruption, but nothing we could sink our teeth into. It was a bit unusual because Mexico has always put the military on a pedestal, “Mike Vigil, former head of international operations for the anti-drug agency, told the Associated Press. This pedestal has grown during the López Obrador government, which has increased the power of the Army with concessions and leadership in tasks such as the construction of a new airport in Santa Lucía, on the outskirts of Mexico City, and the formation of the National Guard. , military court.

This week just an investigation revealed that while the ruling bloc decreed the extinction of 109 trusts, the Government made a historic increase in military funds through four other trusts. “I recognize in him his loyalty to the country. I appreciate the collaboration of Secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos “, wrote López Obrador and Twitter after announcing the appointment as new Secretary of Defense of Luis Crescencio Sandoval, who had been promoted in 2017 as commander of the fourth military region by Cienfuegos.

In just over two decades, 12 Mexican generals have been detained, almost all on suspicion of drug trafficking and corruption, according to the weekly Zeta. Vigil, for example, assured that he had already heard rumors since 2012 about Cienfuegos. The White House’s mistrust of various Mexican corporations is a patent fact, a sieve that the Navy barely manages to overcome, and which has even been portrayed in several series and movies about Mexican drug traffickers. During the call Culiacanazo, the failed operation to arrest Ovidio Guzmán, son of El Chapo, revived the discussion about the leaks that the Army makes to the cartels, an accusation that has not been proven in the Mexican courts, but that may have new revelations in the United States.

It is not just a problem for the military. Former governors, drug traffickers, businessmen and leaders of sects who had hidden in Mexico have passed through the corridors of the US courts. The fragility of the country’s judicial system, where only the probability that a crime will be solved is around 1%, according to the organization Impunidad Cero, deepens the gap of impunity and the lack of trust of the complainants in the institutions.

In the game of denunciations in exchange for reduced sentences, the unknown is the chain of betrayals that led to the capture of the former Secretary of Defense and the indications that US agents have to bring him to justice, especially since it is a figure in the first line of the military ladder. South of the border, the sights are set on the 2021 elections, a massive plebiscite around the presidential figure, and on a government that has chosen to facilitate the work of its American counterparts. “There is a close collaboration of the Department of Justice and other agencies with the Attorney General’s Office,” López Obrador said last week about the García Luna case.

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