In stunning move, U.S. to drop drugs case against ex-Mexican defense minister

By Drazen Jorgic and Mark Hosenball MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors will drop drug charges against ex-Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and turn over the investigation to Mexico, saying 'sensitive' foreign policy considerations outweighed the interest in pressing the case. The surprise decision to dismiss the charges in the politically explosive case was announced in a joint statement on Tuesday from the U.S.

Reuters November 18, 2020 07:11:01 IST
In stunning move, U.S. to drop drugs case against ex-Mexican defense minister

In stunning move US to drop drugs case against exMexican defense minister

By Drazen Jorgic and Mark Hosenball

MEXICO CITY/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors will drop drug charges against ex-Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and turn over the investigation to Mexico, saying "sensitive" foreign policy considerations outweighed the interest in pressing the case.

The surprise decision to dismiss the charges in the politically explosive case was announced in a joint statement on Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Mexico's attorney general's office.

"The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government's interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant," prosecutors from the U.S. Eastern District of New York said in a court document unsealed on Tuesday.

U.S. authorities said the 72-year-old ex-general, accused of using his power to protect a faction of the Beltran-Leyva drugs cartel in Mexico while ordering operations against its rivals, had agreed to voluntarily return to Mexico if the U.S. case against him was thrown out.

Cienfuegos, who served as head of the military and was former President Enrique Pena Nieto's top defense official from 2012 to 2018, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to the charges following his October arrest in the Los Angeles airport.

After a hearing on Wednesday in a Brooklyn federal court, where the judge is expected to sign off on the prosecutors' request, Cienfuegos will likely be transported back to Mexico in the custody of a U.S. Marshal, the court documents show.

The arrest of Cienfuegos, who for years worked closely with U.S. counterparts on highly sensitive cross-border criminal matters, put a severe strain on security ties between the two countries.

The Mexican government was not forewarned of the investigation or arrest, which angered Mexican sensitivities at the highest level. His arrest shocked Mexico's security establishment, given his close ties to a range of current senior officials.

In retaliation, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador publicly threatened to review cooperation agreements that establish how U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents operate in the country.

In remarks to reporters shortly after the announcement, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard described the dropping of the U.S. case as unprecedented and a sign of respect for both Mexican sovereignty as well as the Mexican military.

Ebrard said the decision meant that security cooperation between the two nations could proceed.

He said the Department of Justice had provided Mexican authorities with evidence in the case and committed to support the investigation led by Mexican authorities.

Neither U.S. prosecutors or defense lawyers for Cienfuegos could immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington and Drazen Jorgic in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Tom Brown and Rosalba O'Brien)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.