Mexico President Lashes Out At US DEA

  • Post category:United States
  • Post last modified:January 23, 2021
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Vice | January 21, 2012

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president lashed out again on Friday at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, saying it should pursue an internal investigation into its handling of its case against Mexico’s former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s comments seemed designed to heighten already inflamed tensions between the neighboring countries over U.S. allegations that emerged last year that Cienfuegos was on the payroll of a drug cartel. López Obrador – who claims to have had made fighting corruption one of the pillars of his administration – accused the DEA earlier this month of fabricating the charges and intentionally damaging Mexico’s reputation.

“There is no way that we are going to invent crimes just because the DEA says so,” the Mexican president said Friday in his morning press conference. “The DEA has to explain who made the case file, and why they arrested the general 10 days before the [U.S.] election.”

The DEA said it had “no comment” about López Obrador’s remarks.

While the arrest of Cienfuegos initially put Mexico on the defensive —  the possibility of its top general colluding with a drug cartel was nothing short of humiliating — its top officials have since gone on the offensive, none more so than the president.

His abrasive comments add to a growing saga over Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles in October. Faced with a diplomatic crisis when it became clear that the authorities in Mexico had not known about the investigation and planned arrest of Cienfuegos, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against the general and send him home. Less than two months later, Mexico’s Attorney General cleared Cienfuegos of all charges, and released more than 700 pages of allegedly incriminating evidence that U.S. officials had handed over along with the general.

“There is no way that we are going to invent crimes just because the DEA says so,” the Mexican president said Friday in his morning press conference. “The DEA has to explain who made the case file, and why they arrested the general 10 days before the [U.S.] election.”

The DEA said it had “no comment” about López Obrador’s remarks.

While the arrest of Cienfuegos initially put Mexico on the defensive —  the possibility of its top general colluding with a drug cartel was nothing short of humiliating — its top officials have since gone on the offensive, none more so than the president.

His abrasive comments add to a growing saga over Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles in October. Faced with a diplomatic crisis when it became clear that the authorities in Mexico had not known about the investigation and planned arrest of Cienfuegos, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against the general and send him home. Less than two months later, Mexico’s Attorney General cleared Cienfuegos of all charges, and released more than 700 pages of allegedly incriminating evidence that U.S. officials had handed over along with the general.

“There is no way that we are going to invent crimes just because the DEA says so,” the Mexican president said Friday in his morning press conference. “The DEA has to explain who made the case file, and why they arrested the general 10 days before the [U.S.] election.”

The DEA said it had “no comment” about López Obrador’s remarks.

While the arrest of Cienfuegos initially put Mexico on the defensive —  the possibility of its top general colluding with a drug cartel was nothing short of humiliating — its top officials have since gone on the offensive, none more so than the president.

His abrasive comments add to a growing saga over Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles in October. Faced with a diplomatic crisis when it became clear that the authorities in Mexico had not known about the investigation and planned arrest of Cienfuegos, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against the general and send him home. Less than two months later, Mexico’s Attorney General cleared Cienfuegos of all charges, and released more than 700 pages of allegedly incriminating evidence that U.S. officials had handed over along with the general.

“There is no way that we are going to invent crimes just because the DEA says so,” the Mexican president said Friday in his morning press conference. “The DEA has to explain who made the case file, and why they arrested the general 10 days before the [U.S.] election.”

The DEA said it had “no comment” about López Obrador’s remarks.

While the arrest of Cienfuegos initially put Mexico on the defensive —  the possibility of its top general colluding with a drug cartel was nothing short of humiliating — its top officials have since gone on the offensive, none more so than the president.

His abrasive comments add to a growing saga over Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles in October. Faced with a diplomatic crisis when it became clear that the authorities in Mexico had not known about the investigation and planned arrest of Cienfuegos, the U.S. agreed to drop charges against the general and send him home. Less than two months later, Mexico’s Attorney General cleared Cienfuegos of all charges, and released more than 700 pages of allegedly incriminating evidence that U.S. officials had handed over along with the general.

While U.S. officials say it’s not the sum total of the evidence, experts on both sides of the border say what has been provided is inconclusive at best, and sometimes outright sloppy. Intercepted text messages between alleged cartel members have been ridiculed for their bad translations, and the general’s whereabouts don’t appear to always line up with the DEA’s timeline.

“On one side I think the work the DEA did was dirty and unprofessional. But you don’t tell another country what to do with its agency,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at George Mason University who studies U.S.-Mexico relations and organized crime. “López Obrador is drawing attention away from the criticism against him and avoiding responsibility for what’s wrong in Mexico.”

The spat over Cienfuegos seems certain to create lasting damage between the countries, no matter what happens going forward, and is an inauspicious start to the relationship between the two as President Joe Biden takes office.

“The contrast between the Mexican authorities so quickly dismissing the charges while continuing to double down on accusing the DEA of fabricating evidence — that contrast is worrying,” said Stephanie Brewer, director for Mexico and Migrant Rights with the Washington Office on Latin America.

“The Mexican prosecutor’s office adopted Cienfuegos’ version of events within days. That’s what should be concerning AMLO.”

“The contrast between the Mexican authorities so quickly dismissing the charges while continuing to double down on accusing the DEA of fabricating evidence — that contrast is worrying,” said Stephanie Brewer, director for Mexico and Migrant Rights with the Washington Office on Latin America.

“The Mexican prosecutor’s office adopted Cienfuegos’ version of events within days. That’s what should be concerning AMLO.”