Thursday, October 29, 2020
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Mexico’s defence minister for 6 yrs & patron of drug cartel – Times of India

MEXICO CITY: American law enforcement agents were listening in as Mexican cartel members chattered on a wiretap, talking about a powerful, shadowy figure known as El Padrino, or the Godfather.
Agents had been closing in on him for months, suspecting that this central figure in the drug trade was a highranking official in the Mexican military. All of a sudden, one of the people under surveillance told his fellow cartel members that El Padrino happened to be on television at that very moment. The agents quickly checked to see who it was — and found it was the Mexican secretary of defence, Gen Salvador Cienfuegos, according to four American officials involved in the investigation.
In that moment, the authorities say, they finally confirmed that the mystery patron of one of the nation’s most violent drug cartels was actually the leader in charge of waging Mexico’s war against organised crime.
Ex-def min arrest exposes Mexican drug cartels’ hold over top officials
It was a stunning display of how deep the tendrils of organised crime run in Mexico, and on Thursday General Salvador Cienfuego was taken into custody by the American authorities at Los Angeles airport while travelling with his family. Even for Mexico, a nation often inured to unrelenting violence and corruption, the arrest was nothing less than extraordinary. Cienfuegos, Mexico’s defence minister from 2012 to 2018, is being charged with laundering money and trafficking heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from late 2015 through early 2017, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday.
The charges are the result of a multi-year sting that investigators called Operation Padrino. Officials say Cienfuegos helped the H-2 cartel, a criminal group that committed horrific acts of violence as part of its drug smuggling business, with its maritime shipments. In exchange for lucrative payouts, officials say, Cienfuegos also directed military operations away from the cartel and toward its rivals. Cienfuegos was defence minister throughout the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who left office two years ago.
The general’s arrest comes only 10 months after another top official — who once led the Mexican equivalent of the FBI — was indicted in New York on charges of taking bribes while in office to protect the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful mafias. That official, Genaro Garcia Luna, served as the head of Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005, and for the next six years was Mexico’s secretary of public security, a cabinet-level position in which he had the task of helping the president in creating strategy to battle drug cartels. If the men are convicted, it means that two of the highest ranking commanders ever to oversee the war on drugs in Mexico were working with the organised crime.

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