Because the two males labored for various Mexican administrations and are being accused of aiding completely different drug cartels, it’s unimaginable to dismiss a potential nexus between the Mexican authorities and arranged crime as a short-lived downside linked to a single president or a single drug gang.
As a substitute, taken collectively, prosecutors are prone to provide an unprecedented window into suspected institutional rot at excessive ranges of Mexico’s safety institution.
Each trials will happen in U.S. federal courts over the approaching months. For now, it’s unclear how lengthy america has identified concerning the alleged felony ties of the 2 former officers, each of them as soon as American interlocutors.
Garcia Luna has denied the fees. Cienfuegos has not made a public remark for the reason that arrest. Each are being held with out bail.
America has lengthy relied on Mexico’s cooperation in stemming the circulation of medicine to the border. However, on the identical time, U.S. officers have complained concerning the systemic corruption that stymied that partnership.
For many years, it was largely low-level Mexican officers who had been charged with having hyperlinks to drug cartels, although U.S. officers suspected the issue existed on the prime, too. Since 2008, the U.S. has spent $1.6 billion in tools and coaching for Mexican safety personnel.
“You by no means knew who you possibly can belief there,” mentioned Carl Pike, a retired agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s particular operations division who spent important time in Mexico. “We all the time had the mind-set that once we shared data, we simply assumed it was going to be compromised.
Native police, for instance, had been identified to work informally with the cartels working of their swath of the nation. Mexican legislation enforcement brokers may very well be paid off to not eradicate a poppy discipline, or to permit the protected passage of medicine to the border. Mexican officers would typically tip off the DEA to such low-level corruption instances — “as a sort of courtesy,” mentioned Pike.
However on the highest ranges of Mexican authorities, males like Garcia Luna and Cienfuegos had been thought of by many to be above the fray — a part of an orbit of presidency officers and safety consultants who moved freely between Mexico and Washington, opining on how you can cease the circulation of medicine. In 2012, after leaving authorities, Garcia Luna gave a lecture on the Wilson Heart based mostly on his e book, “A New Mannequin for Safety in Mexico.”
The e book boasted concerning the reforms made throughout the public safety system and federal police throughout his tenure. Garcia Luna was identified for selling anti-corruption measures, like “confidence checks” for native and state police, ostensibly to weed out any officers with cartel loyalties.
“At face worth, you’ll have thought he was one of many saviors of Mexico,” Pike mentioned.
Cienfuegos was invited to present a speech in 2016 at Mexico’s most celebrated army parade, standing subsequent to then-president Enrique Peña Nieto.
“Loyalty can’t be based mostly on deception. The place honor is prioritized, there isn’t a room for lies,” Cienfuegos mentioned. “When there’s a lack of honor, loyalty turns into complicity.
The following 12 months, he accompanied John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland safety, on an overflight above poppy fields within the state of Guerrero, alongside the Pacific coast south of Mexico Metropolis.
The aim of the go to was to debate issues associated to safety and the battle in opposition to organized crime,” mentioned Mexico’s information launch on the go to.
Rise and fall
In 2018, the William J. Perry Heart for Hemispheric Protection Research bestowed its highest award on Cienfuegos for his “development and cooperation of the worldwide safety setting, and to selling sustainable capability within the Americas.”
However, in keeping with courtroom filings launched Friday, throughout these years Cienfuegos “in alternate for bribe funds, assisted the H-2 cartel in quite a few methods” — referring to the as soon as highly effective cartel with a presence alongside Mexico’s west coast.
“Due partly to the defendant’s corrupt help, the H-2 cartel carried out its felony exercise in Mexico with out important interference from the Mexican army and imported hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into america,” the indictment mentioned.
Between 2012 to 2018, when Cienfuegos was protection minister, america was trying to enhance a as soon as tense relationship with Mexico’s army, which for many years had been extra reluctant to work with america than different elements of Mexico’s authorities. Below Cienfuegos, that recalcitrance appeared to fade.
In 2016, the pinnacle of america northern command, Adm. William E. Gortney, spoke glowingly about that progress.
“This 12 months, the military-to-military relationship between america and Mexico reached unprecedented ranges of coordination,” Gortney mentioned. “In the present day we’re strategic companions.”
In the meantime, the indictment in opposition to Cienfuegos says, he had been “warning the H-2 cartel concerning the ongoing U.S. legislation enforcement investigation into the H-2 cartel.”
Mexico’s present president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has described corruption as an issue in earlier administrations, however not in his personal authorities. But Mexican officers say quite a few present safety officers most definitely preserve connections to organized crime.
Requested if he anticipated appearing members of the safety institution to be indicted, one senior Mexican official responded: “Definitely.”
“This simply confirms that the criminals can solely act and flourish with the complicity of high-level authorities,” mentioned the senior official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity due to his function within the present authorities.