Arrest of general shatters trust in Mexican military

“Those who act like criminals,” the general mentioned, studying from ready remarks, “those who disrespect people, those who disobey — not only are they breaking the law but are not worthy of belonging to the armed forces.”

At the time, Cienfuegos Zepeda was reacting to a video displaying a number of troopers torturing a suspect. The video of the crying lady, sitting on the ground along with her arms tied behind her again, had gone viral in Mexico, tarnishing the fame of a military that had been more and more utilized by then President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderón, for legislation enforcement functions, particularly for Mexico’s battle on medicine.

Cienfuegos Zepeda, who served 54 years in the Mexican armed forces, is accused of taking bribes in change for permitting a Mexican drug cartel, recognized for ugly acts of violence, to function with impunity in Mexico.

Now what?

The arrest of general Cienfuegos Zepeda has shaken not solely the armed forces but additionally the trust Mexicans have had in the military for generations.

A 2017 survey conducted by Parametría, a Mexican polling agency, concluded that six in 10 Mexicans agreed the military ought to proceed doing safety work on the streets. The survey additionally confirmed the armed forces have been among the many most trusted establishments in the nation, a discovering that had remained favorable for the military for the previous 15 years.

Local and federal police forces misplaced the trust of the Mexican folks a very long time in the past. After all, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, aka “The Godfather,” chief of the Guadalajara Cartel at its peak in the 1980s and blamed for the homicide of DEA agent Enrique Camarena in 1985, began his profession as a federal police agent.

For 20 years, presidents have entrusted anti-narcotics enforcement to the military — from right-wing Vicente Fox in the early 2000s, to his successor, Felipe Calderón, who declared a battle on drug cartels initially of his presidency in 2006, to the Enrique Peña Nieto and the present president, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

They have completed so exactly as a result of the armed forces have been perceived as reliable and incorruptible. For many Mexicans, the arrest of general Cienfuegos Zepeda, who additionally served as director of Mexico’s Heroic Military College, probably the most prestigious of its form, poses a difficult query: Now what?

Ramón Celaya Gamboa, a retired lieutenant colonel who works as a military legislation professor, mentioned the arrest of a former Mexican Secretary of Defense isn’t solely “unprecedented” however an enormous blow to the Mexican authorities and its armed forces.

“The sole detention of general Cienfuegos has already had a strong impact in the media,” Celaya Gamboa advised CNN. “It affects the army’s credibility as a whole and it also affects the credibility of the Mexican government. It reinforces the image many have abroad of Mexico as a country of drug traffickers.”

In Mexico City, the arrest turned dialog subject primary in a single day. To many Mexicans, the Cienfuegos Zepeda case strikes on the coronary heart of Mexico’s battle towards drug trafficking and transnational legal organizations which have managed to deprave authorities officers on the highest ranges.

Arturo Alcántara, 38, a psychologist, thought of the arrest “something negative regarding Mexico’s image and regarding Mexico’s fight against corruption.”

“If in the end it’s proven that Cienfuegos is guilty, that means one of the people that was in charge of the Mexican war on drugs was corrupted by organized crime,” Alcántara mentioned.

Others, like accountant Alejandro Barrera, 34, have a let’s-wait-and-see perspective.

“This gentleman has to go through the whole legal process, and let’s hope that he’s not a guinea pig just because he’s a high political target,” Barrera mentioned. “They have to first demonstrate he’s guilty and, if that’s the case, he has to be punished.”

Jesús Esquivel, U.S.-based correspondent who writes for the Mexican weekly “Proceso,” says the general’s arrest didn’t shock him. Esquivel has investigated corruption throughout the Mexican police and armed forces for years, and he says he had discovered via sources concerning the upcoming arrest of a high-profile former Mexican official, a narrative he didn’t publish to keep away from compromising the investigation.

“He [Cienfuegos Zepeda] is being linked with the Beltrán-Leyva criminal organization, which dominated [the Mexican state of] Guerrero, trafficking cocaine, heroin and marijuana to the New York region when he was an officer in Mexico’s Ninth Military Region,” Esquivel mentioned. “That’s why the case’s jurisdiction will fall upon the Brooklyn federal court.”

Reach of Mexican legal teams

The District Court for the Eastern District of New York is similar one the place Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the previous chief of the Sinaloa Cartel, was discovered responsible of drug trafficking and different fees. He was sentenced in July 2019 to life in jail plus 30 years and ordered to pay $12.6 million in forfeiture.
Cienfuegos Zepeda’s case isn’t the primary time US legislation enforcement targets a high-profile Mexican official. Genaro García Luna, who served as secretary of public safety from 2006 to 2012 throughout the administration of President Calderón, pleaded not responsible final December to charges related to a drug trafficking conspiracy after being arrested in Dallas, Texas. Federal prosecutors say García Luna allegedly accepted hundreds of thousands of {dollars} in bribes from El Chapo.

Esquivel, the Mexican journalist, says Cienfuegos Zepeda might have loads of data he could also be prepared to share with federal prosecutors, given he was in a place to know doable hyperlinks between legal organizations and the higher echelons of the Mexican authorities throughout a number of administrations.

'El Chapo' was sentenced to life in prison after calling his trial unjust and slamming his prison conditions

“What we don’t know is whether the US Department of Justice is going to offer a plea deal so that the general may become a cooperating or protected witness, and that’s what we will see once he appears in front of the magistrate in Brooklyn, New York,” Esquivel mentioned.

Mike Vigil, who served as Special Agent in Charge of the DEA’s Caribbean and San Diego Divisions, says Cienfuegos Zepeda’s arrest is a evident instance of the energy and attain that transnational Mexican legal organizations have, particularly in terms of their energy to bribe.

“Drug cartels in Mexico, including the Sinaloa Cartel and Jalisco New Generation, have become very powerful,” Vigil advised CNN. “They’re making a lot of money, and it is very easy for them to bribe high-ranking officials.”

Vigil additionally says this high-profile arrest illustrates an absence of trust between legislation enforcement businesses in Mexico and the US.

“This investigation was carried over during many years and there was no coordination with Mexico because Cienfuegos had many contacts inside the government,” Vigil mentioned. “Had he been informed he was a target of an investigation, he would’ve never been captured because he would’ve never come to the United States. The formal complaint was sealed until his Thursday arrest in Los Angeles.”

At a July 2015 ceremony in Mexico City, the place he obtained a prestigious award for his many years of service, general Cienfuegos Zepeda mirrored on each Mexican’s accountability to create a greater nation.

“We should ask ourselves, what are we doing to bring about peace? What kind of country are we hoping to leave for the next generations of Mexicans?” Cienfuegos Zepeda rhetorically requested these in attendance. “More specifically, what kind of Mexico do we want?”

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