Mexico president wants US evidence against ex-defense chief

Border Crime

In this court artist sketch, former Mexican defense secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda’s appears in federal court, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 in Los Angeles. Cienfuegos, who led the country’s army for six years under ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto, has been arrested on drug trafficking and money laundering charges at Los Angeles International Airport, U.S. and Mexican sources said Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020. (Bill Robles via AP).

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday his government will ask United States authorities to share all information about the alleged links between Mexico’s former defense secretary and drug traffickers.

Retired Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested Thursday at Los Angeles International Aiport. The next day, prosecutors released documents alleging that Cienfuegos protected and aided a drug cartel moving cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine to the U.S.

FILE – In this April 16, 2016 file photo, Mexico’s Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda salutes soldiers at the Number 1 military camp in Mexico City. Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard wrote in his Twitter account Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau had informed him that Gen. Cienfuegos has been arrested in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File)

“Show us those operations of complicity if they have the proof,” López Obrador said. Only then will Mexico open its own investigation. “We can’t allow someone to be judged only for political or other reasons if there is no proof.”

The president added though that there would not be impunity for anyone who committed wrongdoing.

Cienfuegos served as defense secretary under ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018. U.S. prosecutors allege that during that time, he was helping a drug trafficking organization dubbed the “H2” cartel, though in Mexico it was considered a remnant of the Beltran Leyva organization, a once-powerful cartel that splintered after the arrests or deaths of its founders.

The allegations rattled Mexico, where the armed forces are among the last institutions widely trusted by the public when it comes to corruption.

Fighting corruption has been López Obrador’s favorite topic in office, but he has also vested more responsibility in the military than any other Mexican president in recent history. On Monday, he remained protective of the institution.

López Obrador said that as commander-in-chief, he would be the only spokesman for the government on the matter.

Cienfuegos was scheduled to make a second court appearance in Los Angeles Tuesday before being transferred to New York, where the case is based.

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