Arrest of former protection minister shatters belief in Mexico's armed forces


“Those that act like criminals,” the overall mentioned, studying from ready remarks, “those that disrespect individuals, those that disobey — not solely are they breaking the legislation however should not worthy of belonging to the armed forces.”

On the time, Cienfuegos Zepeda was reacting to a video exhibiting a number of troopers torturing a suspect. The video of the crying girl, sitting on the ground together with her palms tied behind her again, had gone viral in Mexico, tarnishing the repute of a military that had been more and more utilized by then President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, for legislation enforcement functions, particularly for Mexico’s struggle on medication.

Cienfuegos Zepeda, who served 54 years within the Mexican armed forces, is accused of taking bribes in change for permitting a Mexican drug cartel, recognized for grotesque acts of violence, to function with impunity in Mexico.

Now what?

The arrest of common Cienfuegos Zepeda has shaken not solely the armed forces but in addition the belief Mexicans have had within the navy for generations.

A 2017 survey carried out by Parametría, a Mexican polling agency, concluded that six in 10 Mexicans agreed the navy ought to proceed doing safety work on the streets. The survey additionally confirmed the armed forces have been among the many most trusted establishments within the nation, a discovering that had remained favorable for the navy for the previous 15 years.

Native and federal police forces misplaced the belief of the Mexican individuals a very long time in the past. In any case, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, aka “The Godfather,” chief of the Guadalajara Cartel at its peak within the 1980s and blamed for the homicide of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, began his profession as a federal police agent.

For 20 years, presidents have entrusted anti-narcotics enforcement to the navy — from right-wing Vicente Fox within the early 2000s, to his successor, Felipe Calderón, who declared a struggle on drug cartels firstly of his presidency in 2006, to the Enrique Peña Nieto and the present president, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

They’ve accomplished so exactly as a result of the armed forces have been perceived as reliable and incorruptible. For a lot of Mexicans, the arrest of common Cienfuegos Zepeda, who additionally served as director of Mexico’s Heroic Navy School, essentially the most prestigious of its sort, poses a tough query: Now what?

Ramón Celaya Gamboa, a retired lieutenant colonel who works as a navy legislation professor, mentioned the arrest of a former Mexican Secretary of Protection just isn’t solely “unprecedented” however an enormous blow to the Mexican authorities and its armed forces.

“The only real detention of common Cienfuegos has already had a powerful impression within the media,” Celaya Gamboa instructed CNN. “It impacts the military’s credibility as an entire and it additionally impacts the credibility of the Mexican authorities. It reinforces the picture many have overseas of Mexico as a rustic of drug traffickers.”

In Mexico Metropolis, the arrest turned dialog subject primary in a single day. To many Mexicans, the Cienfuegos Zepeda case strikes on the coronary heart of Mexico’s battle in opposition to drug trafficking and transnational legal organizations which have managed to deprave authorities officers on the highest ranges.

Arturo Alcántara, 38, a psychologist, thought-about the arrest “one thing adverse concerning Mexico’s picture and concerning Mexico’s battle in opposition to corruption.”

“If in the long run it is confirmed that Cienfuegos is responsible, which means one of many those who was answerable for the Mexican struggle on medication was corrupted by organized crime,” Alcántara mentioned.

Others, like accountant Alejandro Barrera, 34, have a let’s-wait-and-see perspective.

“This gentleman has to undergo the entire authorized course of, and let’s hope that he isn’t a guinea pig simply because he is a excessive political goal,” Barrera mentioned. “They must first exhibit he is responsible and, if that is the case, he needs to be punished.”

Jesús Esquivel, U.S.-based correspondent who writes for the Mexican weekly “Proceso,” says the overall’s arrest didn’t shock him. Esquivel has investigated corruption throughout the Mexican police and armed forces for years, and he says he had discovered by sources in regards to the upcoming arrest of a high-profile former Mexican official, a narrative he didn’t publish to keep away from compromising the investigation.

“He [Cienfuegos Zepeda] is being linked with the Beltrán-Leyva legal group, which dominated [the Mexican state of] Guerrero, trafficking cocaine, heroin and marijuana to the New York area when he was an officer in Mexico’s Ninth Navy Area,” Esquivel mentioned. “That is why the case’s jurisdiction will fall upon the Brooklyn federal court docket.”

Attain of Mexican legal teams

The District Court docket for the Jap District of New York is similar one the place Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the previous chief of the Sinaloa Cartel, was discovered responsible of drug trafficking and different costs. He was sentenced in July 2019 to life in jail plus 30 years and ordered to pay $12.6 million in forfeiture.
Cienfuegos Zepeda’s case just isn’t the primary time US legislation enforcement targets a high-profile Mexican official. Genaro García Luna, who served as secretary of public safety from 2006 to 2012 in the course of the administration of President Calderón, pleaded not responsible final December to costs associated to a drug trafficking conspiracy after being arrested in Dallas, Texas. Federal prosecutors say García Luna allegedly accepted thousands and thousands of {dollars} in bribes from El Chapo.

Esquivel, the Mexican journalist, says Cienfuegos Zepeda could have lots of data he could also be keen to share with federal prosecutors, given he was able to know attainable hyperlinks between legal organizations and the higher echelons of the Mexican authorities throughout a number of administrations.

'El Chapo' was sentenced to life in prison after calling his trial unjust and slamming his prison conditions

“What we do not know is whether or not the US Division of Justice goes to supply a plea deal in order that the overall could turn out to be a cooperating or protected witness, and that is what we’ll see as soon as he seems in entrance of the Justice of the Peace in Brooklyn, New York,” Esquivel mentioned.

Mike Vigil, who served as Particular Agent in Cost of the DEA’s Caribbean and San Diego Divisions, says Cienfuegos Zepeda’s arrest is a obtrusive instance of the energy and attain that transnational Mexican legal organizations have, particularly relating to their energy to bribe.

“Drug cartels in Mexico, together with the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Era, have turn out to be very highly effective,” Vigil instructed CNN. “They’re making some huge cash, and it is vitally simple for them to bribe high-ranking officers.”

Vigil additionally says this high-profile arrest illustrates an absence of belief between legislation enforcement businesses in Mexico and the US.

“This investigation was carried over throughout a few years and there was no coordination with Mexico as a result of Cienfuegos had many contacts inside the federal government,” Vigil mentioned. “Had he been knowledgeable he was a goal of an investigation, he would’ve by no means been captured as a result of he would’ve by no means come to the USA. The formal grievance was sealed till his Thursday arrest in Los Angeles.”

At a July 2015 ceremony in Mexico Metropolis, the place he obtained a prestigious award for his a long time of service, common Cienfuegos Zepeda mirrored on each Mexican’s duty to create a greater nation.

“We must always ask ourselves, what are we doing to result in peace? What sort of nation are we hoping to go away for the subsequent generations of Mexicans?” Cienfuegos Zepeda rhetorically requested these in attendance. “Extra particularly, what sort of Mexico do we would like?”



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