Mexican Ex-Defense Minister Charged With Helping Cartel Ship Drugs

Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos is not the first Mexican official accused of conspiring with the H-2 drug cartel, but he is the highest official in Mexico arrested by the DEA.

MEXICO – The Mexican cartel H-2 , a split from the Beltrán Leyva criminal group , came to the fore this Friday when it was identified as the organization that received protection from Salvador Cienfuegos , the Defense Minister of the Enrique Peña Nieto government (2012 -2018) who has just been arrested in the United States.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the eastern district of New York, Cienfuegos, arrested Thursday in Los Angeles, allegedly protected and aided the Mexican H-2 cartel in exchange for bribes.

“The H-2 criminal group is a split, a branch of the Beltrán Leyva criminal group. It is a cartel that does not usually boast of its blows but it has been taking hold in the last decade, “said security expert Pedro Isnardo in an interview .

According to the US Attorney’s Office, Cienfuegos guaranteed that no military operations were launched against this criminal group, but it did order the Mexican Armed Forces to attack rival drug trafficking organizations.

Isnardo assures that the detention of Cienfuegos “makes it very clear what is the level of involvement that (drug trafficking) can reach not only in the Mexican Army, but also the risks of militarization”

The criminal organization took the name of its leader Juan Francisco Patron , nicknamed H-2 and who was killed on February 10, 2017, during a Navy operation in the city of Tepic, Nayarit.

The H-2 was the “leader of the Beltrán Leyva criminal group in Nayarit and Jalisco”, in addition to Sinaloa, in the Mexican Pacific, that is, a key piece within the aforementioned organization, according to the Ministry of the Interior of Mexico.

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, the H-2 cartel was an organization “that habitually engaged in large-scale violence, including torture and murder, and that operated with impunity in Mexico.”

Isnardo indicated that if the Mexican military institutions have reached this level of corruption, it is worth asking “how are the governments of the states and other public and national security agencies.”

The case in the United States

The “Operation Godfather”, as the Drug Control Administration (DEA) baptized, the investigation against Salvador Cienfuegos, who is accused this Friday of drug trafficking and money laundering, managed to bring down an alleged network of the retired general in the United States.

In this sense, for the national security specialist Javier Oliva , the question is “how the DEA intercepted thousands of messages and if those interceptions were in Mexican territory.”

“Now the US authorities must demonstrate, in a reliable and forceful way, what until now are suspicions and they also have to show that this investigation has nothing to do with the electoral process in the United States,” added the researcher from the School of Political Science and Social of the UNAM.

This Friday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador considered it “a very regrettable fact that a former Secretary of Defense is arrested on charges of ties to drug trafficking.”

For López Obrador, who assumed power in 2018 with the promise to clean up the corruption of previous governments, the arrest of Cienfuegos “is an unequivocal sign of the decomposition of the regime” that prevailed before his mandate.

In addition, the president announced that all members of the Army who are “involved” in the events of which Cienfuegos is accused “will be suspended, withdrawn and, if applicable, placed at the disposal of the competent authorities.”

The president advanced that the investigation is a matter “of the same New York court” that leads the trial of Genaro García Luna , who was Minister of Security of the Government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and was arrested for links with drug trafficking.

It is also the court that sentenced Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán , former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, to life imprisonment.

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