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U.S. drops drug case against former Mexican defense minister

Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda speaks during an official reception in Mexico City in 2014.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

The U.S. had charged Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda with taking bribes from the H-2 cartel. Attorney General Barr said Mexico will now investigate the case.

A federal judge has granted the Justice Department’s request to drop criminal charges against Mexico’s former defense secretary, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who had been accused of helping one of Mexico’s drug cartels “operate with impunity” while using the Mexican military to hurt its rivals.

Cienfuegos, who was defense secretary under President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018, was taken into U.S. custody in October at Los Angeles International Airport.

In granting the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss on Wednesday morning, Judge Carol Bagley said, “While the old adage, a bird in the hand comes in mind … I have no reason to doubt the Government.”

Cienfuegos will now be taken by U.S. marshals back to Mexico. At that point the Mexican government has promised to investigate but has not promised to charge him.

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr and Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said the U.S. wanted to drop the charges so Cienfuegos “may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law.”

“The U.S. Department of Justice … has provided Mexico evidence in this case and commits to continued cooperation, within that framework, to support the investigation by Mexican authorities,” the statement said.

To Read The Rest Of This Article By Tom Winter on NBC News

Published: November 18, 2020

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