General Salvador Ex-Mexican Army Chief Arrested in U.S.

General Salvador

Former Mexican defense secretary General Salvador 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 told The Associated Press Thursday.

General Salvador Cienfuegos

Former Mexican defense secretary General Salvador 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 told The Associated Press Thursday.
A senior Mexican official told the AP Cienfuegos to arrive at the Los Angeles airport with his family. His family members were released and he was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Center.

Cienfuegos served from 2012 to 2018 as secretary of defense under Peña Nieto. He is the highest-ranking former Cabinet official arrested since the top Mexican security official Genaro Garcia Luna was arrested in Texas in 2019. Garcia Luna, who served under former President Felipe Calderón, has pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges.
Cienfuegos is 72 years old and has retired from active duty. Mexico’s Defense Department had no immediate reaction to the arrest.
Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, said he heard corruption allegations about Cienfuegos when he was in Mexico in 2012.

“There were always allegations of corruption, nothing we could sink our teeth into. That was kind of unheard of because Mexico has always put the military on a pedestal,” said Vigil, author of the book “The Land of Enchantment Cartel.”The corruption is just coming (home) to roost, because individuals who were once untouchable are now getting arrested,” Vigil added.

Under Cienfuegos, the Mexican army was accused of frequent human rights abuses, but that was true of both his predecessors and his successor in the post. While current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to go after corruption and lawbreaking under past administrations, he has also relied more heavily on the army – and charged it with more tasks, ranging from building infrastructure projects to distributing medical supplies – than any other president in recent history.
Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, wrote on his Twitter account that U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau had informed him of the retired general’s arrest and that Cienfuegos had a right to receive consular assistance.

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