MEXICO CITY – A former Mexican defense minister was arrested Thursday night after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport with his family, becoming the first high-ranking military official to be held in custody in the United States, according to the Mexican government, over drug-related corruption in his country. .
The former officer, General Salvador CNFugos, who was Mexico’s defense minister from 2012 to 2018, was arrested by U.S. officials at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration and will face charges of drug and money-laundering in the United States, according to a federal law. Officer.
The news is not only due to the country’s fight against organized crime, it also draws attention to the forces of corruption that touch the highest levels of the Mexican government. General Sinefugos was Secretary of Defense during the administration of former President Enrique Pe સિa Nieto and during his arrest.
“Mexico has never had a defense minister arrested,” said Jorge Castadeda, a former Mexican foreign minister. “In Mexico, the defense minister is a person who not only runs the military and is also a military man, but reports directly to the president. There is no one above them except the President. ”
The exact charges that General Cinephugos will face are not immediately clear, and Drug Enforcement Administration officials have not responded to requests for comment.
General Cinfuegos served as Secretary of Defense at a time when the massacre was turning to historic levels and the drug cartel was at war.
“This is a big deal,” said Alejandro Madrazo, a professor at CIDE University of Mexico City. By the American government, “Not by the Mexican government, but since the declaration of war on drugs, the military route has become more corrupt and more degrading along the way and for the first time they cannot be untouchable.”
Since crackdowns on drug cartels began in 2006, Mexico’s military has played a central role in public security, with troops deployed in areas fueled by organized crime. The Secretary of Defense oversees that effort.
Suspicions of corruption in the Mexican military have long surfaced in private conversations. The crackdown on corruption has also led to the arrest of politicians, police officers and officials who have been credited with developing counter-terrorism strategies.
But the military has an extraordinary amount of freedom, seldom succumbing to political pressure and is usually protected by the president, who relies on them for the country’s domestic defense.
With the military at the forefront and the center in the fight against drug trafficking, the Mexican government has never created an effective police force. The use of soldiers trained in combat but not policing has created its own problems.
The military has repeatedly been accused of human rights abuses and excessive use of force, including allegations of assassinations of armed forces during General Sinefugos’ tenure as defense minister.
But no senior Mexican military official has been charged with money laundering or drug trafficking. Such allegations would present a new front in an effort to combat corruption and extraordinary power through organized crime in Mexico.
The previous notable case in Mexico’s fight against drug-related corruption was in December 2019, when United States authorities arrested Gener Garcia Luna, a former public secretary and former public secretary of the country’s war on cartel. He was accused of working for one of the cartels he chased.
The arrest of General Sinefugos does not appear to be a joint operation with the Mexican government. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ibard said in a Twitter post that he had been told by the United States ambassador on Thursday night that the former defense minister had been taken into custody.
Natalie Kitroff contributed to the reporting.