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US rebukes Mexico for releasing evidence in drug case against former defense minister

Kate Linthicum, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

MEXICO CITY — The U.S. Department of Justice berated Mexico for releasing hundreds of pages of evidence in a drug trafficking case against a former Mexican defense minister, saying the publication of sensitive information shared in confidence violates a mutual aid treaty.

Mexico’s decision to make the documents public raises doubts about future law enforcement collaboration between the two countries, a Justice Department statement said.

“Publicizing such information violates the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance between Mexico and the United States, and calls into question whether the United States can continue to share information to support Mexico’s own criminal investigations,” said the statement released late Friday from an agency spokeswoman.

The statement also addressed Mexico’s decision not to charge the nation’s ex-defense chief with any crime.

Retired Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, who served as defense minister from 2012-18, was arrested on drug trafficking charges at Los Angeles International Airport last year but was later released to presumably face charges at home after an intense lobbying campaign by Mexican diplomats.

On Friday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced that Cienfuegos would not face charges in Mexico and accused the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of fabricating a case against him.

 

“Why did they do the investigation like this?” López Obrador said. “Without support, without proof?”

The Mexican president called U.S. drug agents incompetent and suggested that the timing of the Cienfuegos arrest shortly before the November U.S. presidential election may have been politically motivated. He ordered the release of evidence collected in the case by U.S. authorities because he said it would bolster his claims.

The Department of Justice statement defended its case against Cienfuegos, saying that the evidence released “show(s) that the case against General Cienfuegos was, in fact, not fabricated.”

“A U.S. federal grand jury analyzed that material and other evidence and concluded that criminal charges against Cienfuegos were supported by the evidence,” the statement said.

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