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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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China

REPORT: China uses psychiatric institutions to suppress dissent

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China has a vast network of psychiatric institutions that it uses to suppress dissent, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. The report compiled data found on 99 victims involved in 144 instances on involuntary hospitalizations in 109 institutions from 2015 through 2021. Of the 99 victims in the report, 80 were petitioners [i.e., those who file complaints against officials] and 14 were activists.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. “China’s regime has been torturing, maiming, and killing dissidents and others in psychiatric facilities for seven decades,” said Gordon G. Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China and The Great U.S.-China Tech War. “The only way to end the horrific abuse is to end the rule of the Communist Party.”

The report detailed especially harsh treatments, which include: forced medication (in 77 percent of cases), physical restraints on the bed (60 percent), beatings by staff or other patients (25 percent) and electroshock therapy (14 percent). Otherwise normally healthy people were given anti-psychotic and psychotropic medications, causing severe side effects like memory loss, insomnia and tremors. Electroshock therapy was often administered to the victims as they were fully conscious, rather than under anesthesia in small doses as would be clinically appropriate for certain patients.  According to the report, “[Electroshock therapy] without anesthesia is not only unimaginably painful and frightening for the patient but carries serious side effects, including the risk of bone fractures, joint dislocation, muscle tears, disruption of the heart beat and lung damage.”

Family and friends are often used as weapons against the victims. They were not permitted to call or visit the victims in 76 percent of cases, which essentially makes these cases “enforced disappearances.” 11 percent of cases were committed with the assistance of family (either voluntarily or coerced by authorities). Family and friends who petition for the victim’s release are often faced with persecution, and involuntarily commitment themselves.

The peak of psychiatric detentions occurred from 2015 through 2016, which was around the same time as China’s “709 Crackdown” where the government persecuted hundreds of human rights lawyers.

Some of the detentions are rather draconian. As a petitioner who called for local authorities to investigate a robbery in his house, Zeng Jiping was detained for almost two years. For “live tweeting herself splashing paint over a portrait of Xi Jinping,” Dong Yaoqiong received 1 year, 4 months detention. Twenty-nine out of the 99 victims in the report were hospitalized more than once. In two-thirds of cases where data was known, the authorities did not perform a psychiatric evaluation, in direct violation of China’s Mental Health Law.

The report also gives the example of Andy Li, a member of the “Hong Kong 12” pro-democracy protestors, as falling victim to involuntary detention in Hong Kong’ Siu Lam Psychiatric Center in 2021. The report noted that, as Li’s family didn’t know about his detention, “Li’s cases appears to be a worrying sign that the political abuse of psychiatry practiced on the mainland is now being exported into Hong Kong…”

Those who are finally released from their involuntary committals face lasting physical and phycological pain, and stigma within their communities. People seeking damages for their treatment are often faced with doctors and attorneys who do not want to assist them for fear of retaliation from the government.

Conclusion

According to the report, China is using “peace and health asylums” and other healthcare institutions to “punish and remove activists and petitioners from society without the trouble of going through a trial.” While the report details various Chinese laws that are supposed to protect citizens from such involuntary hospitalizations, in reality Chinese authorities do not abide by these laws and the citizens are not protected. The policy of involuntary hospitalizations show the extent to which the Chinese Communist Party will go to suppress dissent.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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