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Salvador Cienfuegos, former Mexican defense minister, arrested in Los Angeles

CITY OF MEXICO – A former Mexican defense minister was arrested on Thursday night after arriving at Los Angeles International Airport with his family, the Mexican government said. He is the first high-ranking military official detained in the United States in connection with drug-related corruption.

The former official, General Salvador Cienfuegos, who served as Mexico’s defense minister from 2012 to 2018, was arrested by US authorities at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration and will be charged with drug laundering and money laundering, according to federal law enforcement agencies official.

The news not only shakes the country’s fight against organized crime, but also highlights the forces of corruption that touch the highest levels of the Mexican government. The arrest of General Cienfuegos will also certainly shake the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“There has never been an arrested defense minister in Mexico,” said Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister. “The Minister of Defense in Mexico is a man who not only leads the army and is military, but also reports directly to the president. There is no one above him but the president. ”

General Cienfuegos was defense minister at a time when killings had jumped to historic levels and drug cartels were waging war.

“It’s a huge deal,” said Alejandro Madraso, a professor at CIDE, a university in Mexico City. “The military has become more corrupt and abusive since the declaration of war on drugs, and for the first time they may not be untouchable – but not by the Mexican government, by the US government.”

The Mexican military has played a central role in public security since the crackdown on drug cartels began in 2006, deploying troops in regions covered by organized crime. The Minister of Defense is leading these efforts.

This is an evolving story.

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