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  • Former Mexican Secretary of Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, during his participation in a protocolary act in Mexico City, Mexico. September 15, 2017.

    Former Mexican Secretary of Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, during his participation in a protocolary act in Mexico City, Mexico. September 15, 2017. | Photo: EFE/Jose Pazos

Published 16 October 2020
Opinion

The former Secretary of National Defense (Sedena), Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, was detained by US authorities at the airport in Los Angeles, California, late Thursday night.

The apprehension was confirmed by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard through his Twitter account, in which he refers to the fact that this action was notified to him by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau.

"Ambassador Christopher Landau has informed me of the United States that the former Secretary of National Defense, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, has been detained at the Los Angeles Airport in California," wrote the chancellor on his social media.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, Security Cabinet officials said they were surprised by this announcement since, in Mexico, there was no investigation against the National Defense Department's former head during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto.

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Sources from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Security Cabinet confirmed that the arrest was made at the DEA request and that it has to do with his alleged relationship to organized crime.

Likewise, the Mexican Foreign Minister indicated: "the Consul in Los Angeles will be informing me of the charges in the next few hours. We will offer the consular assistance to which he is entitled—I will keep you informed".

Apparently, Cienfuegos was detained by the authorities when he tried to enter U.S. territory as part of a family trip.

According to local media, the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, learned about the capture of the ex-official minutes before 9 pm Thursday. He made statements on the subject this Friday, during his usual morning conference.

Cienfuegos, a 70-year-old military oficer originally from Mexico City, concluded his assignment as head of National Defense on November 30, 2018.

This is the first time U.S. authorities have detained a military official of such high rank. It would be the first occasion that a former head of National Defense is apprehended at the request of the United States' anti-drug agency, the DEA. However, during the government of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado (1982-1988), rumors circulated indicating that his Defense Secretary, Juan Arevalo Gardoqui, had links to organized crime groups.

In Mexico, the most relevant cases of links with groups dedicated to drug trafficking that have involved generals and have led to convictions are those against Jesús Gutíerrez Rebollo (arrested and tried during the government of Ernesto Zedillo), Generals Arturo Acosta Chaparro Escapite and Antonio Quiroz Hermosillo; both brought to trial for links with the Juarez Cartel in 2002.

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