Mexico president wants US evidence against ex-defence chief

The allegations have rattled Mexico, as the armed forces are generally trusted by the public when it comes to corruption

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador giving his daily, morning news conference at the presidential palace, Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City, Mexico [Marco Ugarte/AP Photo]

Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday his government would ask United States authorities to share all information about the alleged links between Mexico’s former defence secretary and drug traffickers.

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

“Show us those operations of complicity if they have the proof,” Lopez 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.

Former Mexican Defence Secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda’s appearing in federal court in Los Angeles [Bill Robles via AP Photo]

On Saturday, Lopez Obrador criticised the historic role played by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in his country, saying, although Cienfuegos’s arrest is evidence of rampant corruption in past governments, it also dealt a heavy blow to a powerful institution he relies upon.

“Why is it that it’s just the people in Mexico who took part in these acts being accused or implicated, and (the DEA) aren’t criticising themselves, reflecting on the meddling by all these agencies in Mexico?” Lopez Obrador said.

“They came into the country with complete freedom, they did whatever they wanted.”

During that time, he noted, US and Mexican officials deliberately allowed arms to be trafficked into Mexico in an attempt to trace them to cartel leaders, leading to many deaths. But only Mexicans were being held accountable, he said.

Allegations rattle Mexico

Cienfuegos served as defence secretary under ex-President Enrique Pena Nieto from 2012 to 2018. US 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 organisation, 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.

Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto flanked by Defence Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, left, and Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon Sanz, at the start of the annual Independence Day military parade in Mexico City [Eduardo Verdugo/AP Photo]

Fighting corruption has been Lopez Obrador’s favourite 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.

Lopez 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.

Source: News Agencies