The Mexican prosecutor’s office publishes the file that exonerates Cienfuegos practically crossed out

Archive photograph of the former head of the Army of Salvador Cienfuegos from February 18, 2013.Jos M ndez / EFE

The Attorney General’s Office (FGR) has disclosed this Saturday night the file it prepared against General Salvador Cienfuegos for organized crime. The investigation responds to the evidence sent by the United States prosecutor’s office in November. Cienfuegos had been arrested there for drug trafficking. The FGR has thus followed the path opened by the Government, which has released the information on the case that it received from the neighboring country a few weeks ago. But the investigating agency has crossed out practically all of his file. There are hundreds of pages of which you can barely read two sentences in a row. With the idea of ​​protecting personal or sensitive data, the investigating agency has concealed practically all the information, making it difficult to know exactly the depth of its investigation.

Published on its website, the FGR has divided the investigation into two volumes. Most of the first is crossed out. There are more than a thousand pages, in which the FGR has even hidden the content of documents released by the Government. On Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Relations published the 743 pages of messages exchanged allegedly between members of the H-2 mafia clan, a split from the Beltrán Leyva cartel, and between them and Cienfuegos. The material was collected by US authorities over years and sent to Mexico at the end of last year, while Cienfuegos was in prison in New York.

On October 15, the US justice arrested the general in Los Angeles. Secretary of Defense during the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018), Cienfuegos had traveled to the city on vacation with his family. The military man was unaware that justice had been looking for him since the previous year, for an accusation of drug trafficking and money laundering. Cienfuegos was imprisoned in the United States until November 18. Given the claims of the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the administration of Donald Trump agreed to drop the charges against the general, so that he could be processed in Mexico. The Justice Department sent accumulated evidence against him, the 743 pages of messages. But the FGR concluded that there was no evidence to prosecute him. This Thursday, the investigating agency reported that it would not prosecute the general.

Without being much clearer than the first volume, the second gives a glimpse of some details of the investigation of the Mexican prosecutors. The most interesting part comes near the end. On January 9, prosecutors summoned Cienfuegos to declare himself a defendant. The general went to the headquarters of the prosecution and denied the accusations. The level of detail in the general’s statement, which refers specifically to some of the messages that appear in the evidence submitted by the Department of Justice, is surprising. Says Cienfuegos: “Another message of my supposed authorship, is from June 22, 2016, addressed to the user (…) ‘ON DAY 30 I GO 2 WEEK OF HOLIDAY OR GOOD THAT IF YOU DON’T WANT ME TO HAVE SO TITO CARIÑO ‘, [es] Completely false, since during the six years that I held the position of Secretary I never vacationed ”.

His statement spans several pages, partly crossed out. Only the most personal are readable: “Personally, I have been significantly affected in my prestige and leadership formed with work and dedication, being an example of honor and loyalty, for almost six decades of uninterrupted services, day and night, with disposition daily and permanent, away from the family many times and exposing life to others, my story is that of most of my colleagues and they will be thinking, when and how they can be involved in criminal acts as they have tried to do with me ”. In that diligence, the prosecutors did not ask Cienfuegos questions. In the entire file it does not appear that the prosecutors asked the general a single question.

In addition to the statement from the military, the investigation is part of the report made by the National Center for Planning, Analysis and Information to Combat Crime (CENAPI) on the 743 pages of messages. An official was in charge of ordering and “debugging” the exchanges. Identify four main actors in communication and then put together an intelligible account of what they are told. Based on this narration, the official asks “the concessionaires -the telephone operators- the data kept of the PINs related to some IMSI number”, that is, the relationship between the personal numbers of the Blackberry with which they communicated, with the unique codes of each cell phone, integrated into the SIM card. The official concludes in any case that there is no direct communication between the H-2 and Cienfuegos. The theory of the case of the US prosecutor’s office is that the general helped the H-2 clan, Juan Francisco Patron.

Since November, the prosecutor in charge of the case, attached to the terrorism and arms trafficking unit of the FGR’s deputy prosecutor for organized crime, requested information on these four actors from the different units of the agency, including CENAPI. Many said they had nothing, others did. The number of crossed-out parts makes it difficult to know what information you received.

The prosecutor also requested information from the Secretary of Defense. First, it requested information from operations in the State of Nayarit from December 2015 to February 2017. In its accusation, the US prosecutor’s office indicated that Cienfuegos would have helped the H-2 cartel, based in Nayarit, at least among those two dates. In addition to Cienfuegos, his cell phones and other information, the prosecutor asks him about another military man. In that part of the file his name is crossed out, but in the next part and in one of the annexes his name appears. This is General Virgilio Méndez, who was Cienfuegos’ second until 2014. The prosecutor asks if he or Cienfuegos participated in operations in Nayarit or if they had a BlackBerry. The answer is crossed out.

Several of the annexes speak of Nayarit and the death of H-2. In 2017, in a spectacular operation by the Navy in Tepic (Nayarit), H-2 was killed along with 11 other hit men. The Mexican authorities at that time celebrated the capture of one of the priority objectives of the Peña Nieto government, but what the New York Prosecutor’s Office records is that at that time Cienfuegos was fully collaborating with them.

In its January 9 statement, Cienfuegos denies any relationship with the H-2 group. Almost at the end, he says: “The investigation [en EE UU] He fails to prove probable cause that explains why one of the most prestigious Mexican military personnel, with almost 60 years of impeccable service to his nation, at the highest moment of his career and still with several more years ahead of him in the highest position military, he would lend himself to collaborate with an alleged drug trafficker of little or no importance ”.

The prosecution ends up concluding that the information sent by the United States does not prove the crimes of which it accused the general. “There is no evidence to show that [Cienfuegos] met, found or contacted or made communications with members of the aforementioned criminal group that are classified as illegal or that reflect the carrying out of acts outside the law, ”concludes his letter.

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