Cienfuegos was taken into custody on a warrant served by the Drug Enforcement Agency, two people familiar with the arrest said. One of those sources said the warrant was related to drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Both sources spoke under anonymity because they did not have the authorization to discuss the case publicly.
The DEA has declined to make any public comments on Thursday night at this time.
Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s Foreign Minister, tweeted that he had been informed of the retired general’s arrest by U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau and said Cienfuegos retains the right to receive consular assistance.
La Cónsul en Los Angeles me estará informando próximas horas de los cargos. Ofreceremos la asistencia consular a la que tiene derecho. Les mantengo al tanto.
— Marcelo Ebrard C. (@m_ebrard) October 16, 2020
Cienfuegos was placed under arrest after he arrived at the Los Angeles airport with his family, he was transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center and his family members were released.
Cienfuegos served as secretary of defense under Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018. The previous highest-ranking former Mexican Cabinet official arrested was top security official Genaro Garcia Luna in 2019 in Texas. Luna served under former President Felipe Calderón, and he pleaded not guilty to charges of drug trafficking.
There was no immediate reaction to the arrest from Mexico’s Defense Department. 72-year-old Cienfuegos has been retired from active duty.
Former DEA chief of international operations, Mike Vigil, said he heard corruption allegations against Cienfuegos in 2012.
Vigil said that “The corruption is just coming to roost because individuals who were once untouchable are now getting arrested.”
“If they cooperate (with U.S. prosecutors) there are others who are going to be falling, noting U.S. officials “usually don’t want to trade down, they usually trade up,” seeking evidence against equal or higher-ranking officials.”
“It’s really a precarious situation for Mexico to have two Cabinet-level officials arrested in the U.S.”
Regardless of the charges, this will be a heavy blow to Mexico, where its army and navy are some of what’s left of the country’s respected public institutions.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.