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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Mental health crisis spikes among Afghan women after Taliban regained control two years ago
The women of Afghanistan are suffering a mental health crisis since the Taliban regained power two years ago. According to a joint report from three U.N. agencies released Tuesday, approximately 70% of women experience feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression.
The numbers continue to rise, as there has already been a significant jump between April and June of this year alone, with an increase from 57% the preceding quarter.
The report, conducted by U.N. Women, the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, interviewed women online, in-person and in group consultations as well as individual telesurveys.
592 Afghan women in 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces took part in the study. The Associated Press reports:
They have barred women from most areas of public life and work and banned girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade. They have prohibited Afghan women from working at local and non-governmental organizations. The ban was extended to employees of the United Nations in April.
Opportunities to study continued to shrink as community-based education by international organizations was banned and home-based schooling initiatives were regularly shut down by the de facto authorities — a term use by the U.N. for the Taliban government.
Afghanistan is the only country in the world with restrictions on female education and the rights of Afghan women and children are on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
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