Former Mexican minister of defense General Salvador Cienfuegos on Thursday was detained by US authorities on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) orders.
Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard wrote on Twitter that he expected to be informed of the charges against Cienfuegos, having been told of the detention by US Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau.
Cienfuegos was held after arriving at a Los Angeles airport, said Robert Velasco, director of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ North America department.
Cienfuegos, 72, was the top military official during the six years of former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration, whose 2012 to 2018 government has come under scrutiny from Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration.
Mike Vigil, a former head of DEA international operations, said that he was informed by DEA officials that the charges against Cienfuegos include drug trafficking and money laundering related to a case in New York.
A former press official for Cienfuegos did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Given the army’s current prominence in Mexico, the arrest will have disastrous consequences,” Vigil said in an interview. “Mexico has always held the army on a pedestal as being incorruptible.”
Before stepping down in 2018, Cienfuegos had publicly praised Lopez Obrador’s pick to replace him, Mexican Minister of Defense Luis Crescencio Sandoval.
Cienfuegos is now the second major Mexican ex-security official being held by US law enforcement.
Former Mexican federal police chief Genaro Garcia Luna is on trial in New York for allegedly taking millions of dollars in bribes to protect convicted kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel.
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