On Thursday, a former Mexican defense minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos, was detained in Los Angeles on drug charges. The arrest prompted President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to vow to punish other military officials involved.
Gustavo Flores-Macias is an associate professor of government at Cornell University and the former Director of Public Affairs in Mexico’s Consumer Protection Agency. He says the arrest of General Cienfuegos is significant because it opens the door for López Obrador to pursue charges against other Mexican officials, including former president Enrique Peña Nieto.
“The arrest of Mexico's former defense minister, General Cienfuegos, in the U.S. at the DEA's request has important implications for both countries' efforts to address organized crime.
“The arrest is unprecedented: although Mexican generals had been arrested on drug-trafficking charges, no former minister had been. This is significant because, since 2006, the military has been largely in charge of anti-drug efforts in Mexico. Although the arrest is damaging to the notion that the military should be involved in law enforcement because it is less corrupt, it also helps President López Obrador’s administration, for whom anti-corruption efforts have been a key concern. The U.S. conducting the arrest validates his claims that corruption has plagued previous administrations. In particular, this provides cover for López Obrador to file charges against his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, if he were implicated.”