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U.S. Prosecutors Drop Drug Charges Against former Mexican Defense Minister

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This story first published on The Dark Wire: An Investigation Foundation, founded by Sara A. Carter.

U.S. prosecutors formally dismissed drug trafficking and money laundering charges against Mexico’s former defense minister this Wednesday.

In New York City, a federal judge has granted prosecutors requests from the Justice Department to dismiss all criminal charges against retired Mexican Army General and former defense secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. Cienfuegos, who served as Mexico’s defense secretary under former President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018, was secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in New York in 2019. General Cienfuegos will be returned to Mexico by the U.S. Marshals to face charges by Mexican authorities “if appropriate.”


According to the U.S. indictment, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, also known as “El Padrino” (The GodFather), is accused of trafficking in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and marijuana to the United States and money laundering while serving as Mexico’s defense minister.


Gen. Cienfuegos also accused of permitting the “H-2” cartel led at the time by Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez, alias “El H2” to operate with impunity in Mexico while using the Mexican military to launch operations against rivals. Patrón Sánchez, “H-2” was the “plaza boss” for the Beltrán-Leyva spinoff drug gang previously aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel. Patrón Sánchez was killed in February 2017, during a raid led by the Mexican Navy.


The arrest of Gen. Cienfuegos took place at Los Angeles International Airport in mid-October when he arrived with his family from his native Mexico. His detention drew immediate backlash from high level Mexican government officials who were said to be blindsided and embarrassed since they were not informed of the investigation against Cienfuegos and impending arrest.


On Tuesday, November 17, the Attorney General of the United States William P. Barr and Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero released a joint statement as follows:

“In recognition of the strong law enforcement partnership between Mexico and the United States, and in the interests of demonstrating our united front against all forms of criminality, the U.S. Department of Justice has made the decision to seek dismissal of the U.S. criminal charges against former Secretary Cienfuegos, so that he may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law.”

“At the request of the Fiscalía General de la República, the U.S. Department of Justice, under the Treaty that governs the sharing of evidence, has provided Mexico evidence in this case and commits to continued cooperation, within that framework, to support the investigation by Mexican authorities.”


According to court documents, prosecutors indicated that “the evidence in this case is strong.” But further related, “as a matter of foreign policy and in recognition of the strong law enforcement partnership between Mexico and the United States, and in the interest of demonstrating our united front against all forms of criminality including the trafficking of narcotics by Mexican Cartels the government hereby moves to dismiss the pending charges against the defendant without prejudice.”

A detention memo submitted by the Drug Enforcement Administration indicated that thousands of intercepted BlackBerry messages revealed that Cienfuegos made sure that military operations were not carried out against the H-2 cartel, as reported by NBC News.

The arrest and subsequent release of Gen. Cienfuegos followed the December 2019 arrest of Genaro García Luna, the former Secretary of Public Security in Mexico. García Luna was accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel while he controlled Mexico’s Federal Police Force. Garcia Luna remains in U.S. custody

Robert Arce is a retired Phoenix Police detective with extensive experience working Mexican organized crime. Arce completed work assignments in the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, with the most recent being a three-year tour in Monterrey, Mexico, for the U.S. Department of State, International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Program. He can be contacted at robertrarce@gmail.com

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Columbia alumni are also anti-Israel, threaten to withhold $77 million in donations

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2,000 people claiming to be Columbia University alumni have signed a letter pledging to “withhold all financial, programmatic, and academic support” from the institution until it meets the demands of anti-Israel protesters. The result is $77 million in donations is at risk.

National Review reports that the letter, addressed to Columbia president Minouche Shafik and the school’s trustees, expresses support for the protesters who oppose the university’s “continued collaboration with the Israeli government’s ongoing genocidal violence against Palestinians.”

“The movement for Palestinian liberation, on campus and globally, is often led by Jewish people of many nations,” the letter says. “Weaponizing claims about antisemitism to silence student speech is based on faulty logic, harms Jewish students, and distracts from true antisemitism, including the attempts by a craven American right to tokenize, exploit, and appropriate Jewish trauma and resilience.”

There does not appear to be a process to verify that people who sign the letters are, in fact, Columbia alumni. It allows people to sign anonymously.

The letter condemns the “administration’s brutal repression of student speech and assembly,” specifically president Shafik’s decision to call in the New York Police Department Strategic Response Group on protesters. Hundreds of anti-Israel protesters were arrested at Columbia and at the City College of New York on April 30, including some who barricaded themselves inside a campus admissions building.

Signatories of the letter are pledging to withhold donations until the university meets 13 demands, including: that it divests from companies that “fund or profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide, and occupation of Palestine”; calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war; removes Shafik as president; bans the NYPD from campus; and drops charges against student activists, reverses disciplinary measures against them, and finances the healthcare for students who were “brutalized” by the police.

The website where the letter is shared claims that the signatories have previously provided over $67 million in financial contributions to Columbia, and that over $77 million in donations are now at risk.

The letter also claims that the university “failed to hold accountable the former Israeli soldiers who carried out a chemical attack on protesting students in January 2024.” That seems to be a reference to an incident involving anti-Israel protesters who told the student-run Columbia Spectator that during a demonstration earlier this year they were sprayed with “skunk,” a chemical developed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

While this letter is from supporters of the anti-Israel protesters, Columbia has also received pushback from opponents who say the school is allowing protesters to break the law, disrupt the educational environment, and harass Jewish students, adds National Review.

On Monday, 13 federal judges sent a letter to Columbia leaders saying they will no longer hire the school’s students as clerks due to their behavior and the school’s mismanagement of anti-Israel protests, writing that “Columbia has disqualified itself from educating the future leaders of our country.”

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, a Columbia alumnus, said in April that he would withhold donations from the university due to the anti-Israel protests.

“I am deeply saddened at the virulent hate that continues to grow on campus and throughout our country,” Kraft said in a statement. “I am no longer confident that Columbia can protect its students and staff and I am not comfortable supporting the university until corrective action is taken.”

 

 

 

 

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