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News > Mexico

US: Justice Dept Will Extradite General Cienfuegos to Mexico

  • The high-ranking Mexican official, arrested in the United States on charges of drug trafficking, will be extradited to Mexico where he face the Mexican justice system.

    The high-ranking Mexican official, arrested in the United States on charges of drug trafficking, will be extradited to Mexico where he face the Mexican justice system. | Photo: EFE/EPA/Justin Lane

Published 18 November 2020

Mexican authorities assured that there would be no impunity or injustice in the prosecution of the high official.

The request by U.S. prosecutors to withdraw criminal charges for drug trafficking against former Mexican Defense Secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda was approved Wednesday by a federal judge in New York in what was the official's last appointment with the U.S. justice system before his return to Mexico.

Federal Judge Carol B. Amon considered that "although these are very serious charges," based on the Justice Department's argument that the charge should be dropped "as a matter of foreign policy," she determined to approve the request and the "expedited" transfer of the defendant to Mexico under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.


Former Mexican Defense Secretary Arrested in US on Drug Charges

U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme testified before Judge Carol B. Amon that it was established that "proceeding with the case is contrary to the interests of the United States in its foreign policy" and in particular in its relationship with Mexico.

In response to Judge Amon's question, he stated that this decision was made "at the highest level" of the U.S. government, confirming that Attorney General William Barr himself made it.

In the hearing before the federal court in Brooklyn, the judge asked General Cienfuegos, Secretary of Defense during the past administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, if he understood the conditions of this request, and that he was giving up his rights to apply for asylum among others, to which the defendant responded that he agreed and was "satisfied" with those conditions.

In their written request on Monday before the court in New York in charge of the case, the prosecutors argued that "the United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the Government's interest in proceeding with the prosecution of the defendant, under the totality of the circumstances, and therefore require the dismissal of the case."

Meanwhile, the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, expressed this Wednesday that "there is no agreement of impunity" in the case of Cienfuegos, nor will it be "shelved" because the Attorney General's Office (FGR) opened an investigation against the military official, based on the evidence sent to it six days ago by the U.S. Department of Justice.

López Obrador assured that his government requested Cienfuegos' extradition because the agreement in force with the United States on this matter had not been fulfilled. He asserted that any pressure from the Armed Forces did not influence the decision. "We do not accept pressure from anyone," he said.

The president added that there would be no impunity in the case, nor will an arbitrary process be allowed in which a conviction is conferred with insufficient evidence. He affirmed that they would not tolerate injustice and that it is of utmost importance for Mexico because the Defense Department is involved.
General Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles by U.S. federal authorities last October 15 on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering, for which he faced a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

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