Mexico's Former Defence Minister Detained in LA on Warrant from US Drug Enforcement Agency

This is the second arrest of former cabinet-level Mexican official in the US in past one year by Drug Enforcement Agency

The former Mexican Secretary of Defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, has been detained at the Los Angeles Airport, California, said Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo.

The ex-defense minister, who served the Mexican army for six years from 2012 to 2018 under ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto, was detained on the request of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), as per the DEA spokesperson.

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"I have been informed by Ambassador Christopher Landau of the United States that the former Secretary of National Defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, has been detained at the Los Angeles Airport, California," Mexico's foreign minister wrote on Twitter.

He said the consul in LA is yet to inform the charges of arrest but the former defense minister would be provided with the required consular assistance.

Cienfuegos was with his family when he arrived at the Los Angeles airport. While his family was released, he was taken to the Metropolitan Detention Centre.

Cienfuegos is the latest former senior Mexican official to be detained. In December 2019, the country's former Secretary of Public Security Genaro Garcia Luna was arrested by federal agents in Dallas, Texas. Luna and two other senior associates were charged in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy by the US in July. Luna had pleaded not guilty ti drug trafficking charges.

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The DEA's former chief of international operation Mike Vigil was quoted by The Washington Post as saying that he had heard about the corruption allegations against Cienfuegos when he was in Mexico in 2012.

"There were always allegations of corruption, nothing we could sink our teeth into. That was kind of unheard of because Mexico has always put the military on a pedestal," Vigil was quoted to have said. The former DEA official termed the situation precarious for Mexico as two of its former Cabinet level officials are under arrest in the US.

Cienfuegos tenure is marred with the allegations of frequent human rights abuses by the Mexican army and the 2014 army killings of about 22 suspects in a grain warehouse.

When voted to power, Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had vowed to go after corruption and lawbreaking under past administrations. Corruption is a bigger threat to Mexico than organized crime, he had said.

The country has moved up eight places in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index under Lopez Obrador; to rank 130 out of 198 countries.