The corruption in Mexico is coming home to “roost,” because individuals who were once untouchable are now getting arrested,” former DEA chief of international operations Mike Vigil relates. General Salvador Cienfuegos, the Mexican defense secretary who led their army under ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto for six years was just arrested on drug trafficking and money laundering charges at Los Angeles International Airport.
A fresh twist to Mexican corruption
Allegations of corruption in Mexico are nothing new. What’s interesting is that up until recently, “Mexico has always put the military on a pedestal.” High ranking Army officials were once considered off limits. That’s a thing of the past. U.S. and Mexican sources confirmed on Thursday that 72-year-old General Cienfuegos is in custody on a Drug Enforcement Administration warrant.
According to a tweet put out by Mexico’s Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard, “U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau had informed him of the retired general’s arrest” but there isn’t a lot he can do about it. He does note that “Cienfuegos had a right to receive consular assistance” for his smuggling related corruption charges.
A senior Mexican official who would prefer to leave his name out of it, told reporters that “Cienfuegos was arrested when he arrived at the Los Angeles airport with his family.” He didn’t say much about the accused corruption charges but did note that the general’s family members were set free while General Cienfuegos was transported to the Metropolitan Detention Center.
Arrest sets a new record
Corruption is a way of life in Mexico. Nothing can be done without paying off any official who’s toes might get stepped on. The most unusual thing about the general’s arrest is that it sets a record for the “highest-ranking former Cabinet official arrested.” The title was formerly held by Genaro Garcia Luna. The top Mexican security official was arrested in Texas just last year, also on drug trafficking charges.
As Mike Vigil, the former chief of international operations for the DEA explains, “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.” He also points out that if Cienfuegos plays let’s make a deal with prosecutors, then other high profile arrests will soon follow.
“The corruption is just coming to roost, because individuals who were once untouchable are now getting arrested.” When prosecutors have a high profile chicken to roast under the hot lights, they expect them to produce some tasty tidbits. Officials “usually don’t want to trade down, they usually trade up. It’s really a precarious situation for Mexico to have two Cabinet-level officials arrested in the U.S.” Along with drug smuggling and money laundering, Cienfuegos is responsible for a massacre in June of 2014. Soldiers under his command “killed 22 suspects at the warehouse in the town of Tlatlaya. At least eight and perhaps as many as a dozen suspects were executed after they surrendered.”