National Security

US Drops Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering Charges Against Former Mexican General

REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

Fabio van Loon Contributor
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The United States has dropped all charges against the former Mexican Secretary of Defense General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, deciding to return the general to Mexican authorities in a surprise move by the Trump Administration.

Cienfuegos Zepeda, who led the Mexican Army’s counter-narcotic efforts under the administration of Enrique Peña, was apprehended at the Los Angeles International Airport on October 15th, reported BBC News. U.S. officials alleged that the general had used the power of his office to protect and support the operations of some of Mexico’s largest and most violent drug cartels.

The U.S. Department of Justice issued the following statement in its October 16th docket to U.S. District Court Judge Carol Amon of the Eastern District of New York: 

“The defendant [Cienfuegos Zepeda] abused that public position to help the H-2 Cartel, an extremely violent Mexican drug trafficking organization, traffic thousands of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States, including New York City. In exchange for bribe payments, he permitted the H-2 Cartel—a cartel that routinely engaged in wholesale violence, including torture and murder—to operate with impunity in Mexico.”

In its initial examination of Cienfuegos’ ties to cross-border narco-trafficking, the DOJ docket recommended a minimum 10 year sentence, up to a potential conviction of life imprisonment.

That recommendation was overturned today by Judge Amon who ordered for Cienfuego Zepeda’s return to Mexico.

The decision follows from a statement made by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, NY that charges against the general should be dropped in light of “sensitive and important foreign policy considerations… which outweigh the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution,” according to the Wall Street Journal. (RELATED: NARCO-DRONES: The Cartels’ Newest, Tech Savvy Smuggling SOP Spooks Security Experts)

Clearing the way for his return, some have described the move to be an inappropriate reversal of charges originally laid against him.

According to the Wall Street Journal, former Director of International Operations at the DEA Mike Vigil, described the decision as “absurd and unusual.”

Vigil continued by stating “You have one of the main protectors of drug trafficking, corruption and violence in Mexico and he’s going to get kicked across the line, and his chances of being prosecuted in Mexico are slim to none.” 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has cast doubt on the allegations against Cienfuegos Zepeda, stating that “There must be support, evidence — no person can be the victim of an injustice,” according to the Wall Street Journal.