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Former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos Former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos  (AFP or licensors)

US won't press charges against former Mexican defense minister

In an unprecedented move, US Legal Authorities have announced they are dropping all drug trafficking and money laundering charges against Mexico`s former Minister of Defense.

By James Blears

Retired General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who was Mexico’s Minister of Defense from 2012-2018, was arrested last month in Los Angeles International Airport, accused of drug trafficking and money laundering for an offshoot of the Beltran Levya drug cartel, which also involved him allegedly protecting them from law and order. He denies all the charges.

Zepeda was due to appear in a US Court today to answer those charges. However, in an extraordinary turn of events prosecutors from the eastern district of New York have announced: “The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the Government`s interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant.” Under escort, the General will be returned to Mexico to face the accusations.

The arrangement was jointly agreed by US Attorney General William Barr and his opposite number in Mexico, Alejandro Gertz Manero. The Mexican Government was outraged that the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), hadn’t shared any of the evidence leading up to the General’s arrest on US soil. Mexico lodged a formal complaint, and the incident threatened to have serious and long-lasting effects and consequences on bi-lateral cooperation.

Listen to James Blears' report:
18 November 2020, 18:46