Thursday, November 05, 2020

Cienfuegos Zepeda Mexico's Former Secretary Of Defense Busted At LAX....,

theamericanconservative  |  While American policymakers focus intently on developments in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific, trouble is brewing much closer to home. Under growing stress from drug-related violence and systemic corruption, Mexico is exhibiting worrisome signs of governmental dysfunction. The latest shock occurred on October 16, when U.S. authorities arrested Mexico’s former defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, at Los Angeles International Airport on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Cienfuegos Zepeda was a major player in Mexico’s military and political affairs, leading the country’s armed forces for six years under former president Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).

His disgrace is especially important because the military has been in charge of waging the war on illegal drugs since President Felipe Calderon made it the lead agency for that mission in 2006. Allegations that Cienfuegos Zepeda was on a drug cartel payroll, therefore, were especially embarrassing and demoralizing. As the Associated Press reporters Christopher Sherman and Maria Verza point out, Mexico’s reliance on its military has grown under current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: “He has entrusted it with not only leading the government’s ongoing fight with drug cartels, but also with stopping rampant fuel pipeline theft, building major infrastructure projects and being the backbone of the new, ostensibly civilian, National Guard.”

 Moreover, the military has long occupied a special status in Mexico’s political hierarchy. An ironclad agreement has been in place for decades that the army doesn’t interfere in politics, and civilian political leaders, including the president, do not interfere in the army’s internal operations. The appointment process for defense secretary highlights the extent of the military’s clout. In contrast to all other cabinet posts, the president does not have the latitude of making a personal choice for defense secretary; he or she chooses from a list of acceptable candidates that the generals submit.

The incident with Cienfuegos Zepeda was hardly the first time that scandal has rocked Mexico’s military and drug-fighting establishments. Genaro García Luna, who served as Mexico’s secretary of public security from 2006 to 2012 under President Calderon, was arrested last year in Texas on drug trafficking charges. U.S. prosecutors allege that he took tens of millions of dollars in bribes to protect Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel. Another notorious incident occurred even earlier. In 1996, the Mexican government appointed General Jesus Gutierrez Rebello, who had overseen military operations for the previous seven years in the narcotics-infested region of Guadalajara, to head the National Institute for the Combat of Drugs. U.S. officials hailed the appointment and how it symbolized the growing role of the country’s military in the drug war. Just months later, he was arrested for drug trafficking.