Spanish – Judge Alexander MacKinnon of the Federal Court of the Central District of California denied bail to Mexican General Salvador Cienfuegos, former Secretary (Minister) of National Defense.
Duane Lyons, the lawyer for the detained military man, did not convince the judge. Neither with the 750,000 USD bail, he offered nor with the argument that the general would defend his honor without fleeing the United States. The defense argued that the general is 72 years old, and therefore, at risk of contracting COVID-19 if he stays in prison. However, this argument also failed.
There was a reference to the letter sent by the prosecutors to the judge Carol B. Amon, where they requested the court to reject the general’s bail plea.
The document argued that if the general was released, there was a high risk that he would flee to Mexico, where drug traffickers and corrupt former officials would protect him. Cienfuegos Zepeda will continue his trial in prison and will not be extradited to Mexico.
The second hearing for Cienfuegos lasted 20 minutes
The powerful military official refused to attend the second hearing, and the person in charge of his legal defense was present and heard the four criminal charges that Cienfuegos faces. Three for conspiracy to export illegal drugs to the United States and one for money laundering- crimes for which no evidence has been presented.
General Cienfuegos, former Secretary (Minister) of National Defense during the government of former President Enrique Peña Nieto, could be transferred this week to a New York State Court where his trial will take place.
Other Mexicans accused of drug trafficking crimes, including Genaro García Luna, the former Secretary of Security of the Government of former President Felipe Calderón, and Édgar Veytia, former prosecutor of the state of Nayarit, are at the same court.
Cienfuegos’ Arrest does not damage the prestige of the Armed Forces: AMLO
Hours before the hearing in California, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called himself the sole spokesman for the Cienfuegos case.
In his morning conference, he announced: “Now, as supreme commander, I am going to be the spokesperson because it is a very delicate matter, and I want to follow up and inform so that it does not lend itself to an unjust blow against the institution. Even if it takes a while, they will be listening to me.”
AMLO does not want the detention and accusation of the former Secretary of National Defense to weaken the Armed Forces, and he has given them many orders.
He has insisted that the Army must not be distrusted or discredited. And since he is not going to insist on that, the Mexican president has ceded much power to the Armed Forces. So much so that the opposition and specialists in military issues believe it is too much. Other voices accuse him of militarizing the country.
The Army is in charge of public security. The military is in charge of the construction of the Tren Maya, the new airport in the country’s capital, and has control of customs and ports.
Distrust of the Mexican Government?
The president of Mexico is upset because the government of “his friend,” Donald Trump– as they call each other- did not warn him of the inquiry into the case of the powerful General Cienfuegos.
For 14 months, the U.S. Department of Justice investigated the general behind the back of the Mexican government. No one found out about it. Neither the ambassador nor the minister of foreign affairs. No one knew about the operation until he was arrested.
“It is a procedure that the U.S. government has. They act independently. Here, it is important that we also act independently. What is not valid is that they participate in Mexico and even link themselves to institutions in Mexico. They extract information and resolve issues without informing the Mexican government of what they are investigating. It is their right because it is a sovereign government, but we also have to do the same.”
The Mexican Army is one of the most respected institutions in the country, but in the United States, they distrust everyone. That’s why they kept the Cienfuegos investigations a secret despite the president’s and the army’s anger.
The arrest of “El Padrino,” as General Cienfuegos was known among the drug cartels, opened the debate on the need for urgent reform within the Armed Forces.
In Mexico, the National Guard is headed by a military officer and not by a civilian, as is the case in several countries. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had promised to do so, but at the time of the decision, he did not deliver. Perhaps we will see that civilian command in another administration because, in this one, it seems almost impossible.