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Iran Press TV

Mexico agreed to nab cartel leader to secure release of ex-minister: Report

Iran Press TV

Saturday, 21 November 2020 2:32 PM

Mexico reportedly struck a deal with the US to arrest a high-level cartel leader in return for a move by Washington to drop drug trafficking charges against a Mexican ex-defense minister and release him.

The US dropped charges of drug trafficking and corruption against Salvador Cienfuegos on Tuesday, asserting that the move was due to "sensitive" foreign policy considerations. The decision was announced in a joint statement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Mexico's attorney general's office.

However, Reuters cited a senior Mexican source as saying on Saturday that Mexico had privately told US Attorney General William Barr that it would work with Washington to arrest a high-level cartel leader involved in trafficking large quantities of the synthetic opioid fentanyl in return for Cienfuegos' release.

"Mexico committed to collaborate [sic] with the United States in the capture of a primary objective," the source told Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

The report did not provide information on which cartel leader would be targeted.

Daniel Millan, a spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, said, "What we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country."

A spokeswoman for the US Department of Justice, however, said there had been no deal and that the case against Cienfuegos had been dismissed in what she called a sign of confidence in Mexican justice and because of diplomatic considerations.

Cienfuegos, a 72-year-old retired general, was arrested at a Los Angeles airport in mid-October. He was accused of conspiring to produce and distribute "thousands of kilograms" of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana in the US between December 2015 and February 2017.

Prosecutors in Mexico opened their own probe after he was arrested in the US.

The arrest of the former general in the US was the result of a multi-year investigation that used wire taps to track a military figure, dubbed "El Padrino" by traffickers, allegedly involved in smuggling drugs.

Investigators concluded that "El Padrino," or the Godfather, was Cienfuegos and that he had helped the cartel move tons of narcotics.

Mexico was outraged at being kept in the dark about the case, threatening to cut all cooperation with the US.

Foreign Minister Ebrard said that Washington had violated a 1992 pact that all investigations on the Latin American nation must be shared with the authorities there.

"There are two paths. Either this violation of the accord that exists between us repaired, or we put all cooperation off the table," he said.

Mexico's threat appeared to work on Wednesday, when a federal judge in Brooklyn said that at the request of Barr, she would formally dismiss the charges against Cienfuegos.

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