“It’s demoralizing because this should have gone to trial. It makes us look foolish … We lose credibility. It is a shame”.
It is one of the reactions that have arisen within the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA, for its acronym in English), collected by the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). What was said by a veteran agent who works in Latin America, portrays the feelings of several of his colleagues after the decision to dismiss the charges for drug trafficking against the former Secretary of Defense of Mexico, General Salvador Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos, in charge of the Mexican Army during the six-year term of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) He was arrested on October 15 in the city of Los Angeles for alleged ties to drug trafficking in Mexico. General Cienfuegos was accused of having acted in the service of the Beltrán Leyva Cartel during his tenure at the head of the Mexican Army. The investigation was carried out by the DEA. At first it was said that they carried out it during the last 10 years.
But this Tuesday, in a joint statement, the US and Mexican prosecutors announced that the former decided to drop the charges against the general. Salvador Cienfuegos and send it to the second.
“In recognition of the strong law enforcement partnership between Mexico and the United States, and in order to demonstrate our united front against crime in all its forms, The United States Department of Justice has made the decision to request the dismissal of the US criminal charges against former Secretary Cienfuegos, so that he may be investigated and, where appropriate, charged, in accordance with Mexican law”.
And this Wednesday, when a judge confirmed the withdrawal of the charges against the Mexican military, the acting federal prosecutor, Seth DuCharme insisted that the case was solid but also accepted that the interest of the United States in maintaining the bilateral relationship and the Law enforcement partnerships with Mexico overcame the Justice Department’s interest in following it.
The decision to drop the charges, as indicated WSJ, shocked some current and former law enforcement officials, because the case took years to prepare and was seen as a portrait of deep-rooted corruption in the Mexican Armed Forces.
It is not for less. Until now, Salvador Cienfuegos was the highest-ranking Mexican official to have been arrested for ties to organized crime.
So many DEA agents, continues the American newspaper, they were angered by the decision to drop the charges, claiming that the US Department of Justice did not notify or offer – neither the DEA nor the agents involved in the case nor even senior officials – any explanation for that decision.
One of the agents indicated that the United States government decided to return General Cienfuegos to Mexico under “The enormous pressure of the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador”.
This media also highlights that the prosecutor’s decision recalls other abrupt changes that he has ordered in other delicate criminal cases, which have generated criticism even among some of his closest allies.
And it is that, they add, Barr has taken a personal interest in relations between the United States and Mexico; it has driven many changes by the Mexican government. For example, they recalled that Barr visited Mexico at least twice, in late 2019 and early 2020, amid growing alarm in Washington over Mexico’s failure to crack down on drug cartels.
“Mexico has prosecuted some high-profile cases in the past, including former drug czar General Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, arrested in 1997 for taking bribes from a cartel and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He died in prison in 2013. But in general, prosecutions of Mexico’s military secrets are very rare.”, Says the newspaper WSJ.
In addition, they highlight, Mexico’s judicial system is also much weaker than that of the United States, taking into account statistical data that indicate that nine out of 10 crimes in Mexico are never reported or punished, with an impunity rate of around 93%.