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Former Mexican defense secretary accused of drug trafficking to be turned over to Mexico for investigation

November 18, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

FILE - In this Sept. 16, 2016, file photo, Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, left, and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, salute during the annual Independence Day military parade in Mexico City's main square. On Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, the former Mexican defense secretary pleaded not guilty to U.S. drug trafficking and money laundering charges during a remote appearance in federal court in New York City. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

A former Mexican defense secretary arrested in the US last month on charges of being a drug cartel boss is going to be returned to Mexico with a promise by Mexican authorities to investigate him, US and Mexican top prosecutors announced Tuesday.

(CNN)A former Mexican defense secretary arrested in the US last month on charges of being a drug cartel boss is going to be returned to Mexico with a promise by Mexican authorities to investigate him, US and Mexican top prosecutors announced Tuesday.

Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Secretary of National Defense in Mexico from 2012 to 2018, is accused of taking bribes in exchange for permitting a cartel to operate in Mexico, federal prosecutors said when he was arrested in October.

US Attorney General William Barr announced a deal with Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero under which US prosecutors will seek to dismiss charges against Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, who will be turned over to Mexican authorities who have opened their own investigation into him.

The October 15 arrest of Cienfuegos while on vacation in Los Angeles was the culmination of a yearslong effort by Drug Enforcement Administration investigators and US prosecutors who worked to uncover senior-level government officials who helped protect violent drug trafficking groups in Mexico.

But the arrest also embarrassed and angered many in the Mexican government, who complained that US authorities hadn't provided enough notification, according to US and Mexican officials briefed on the matter.

Mexico's Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday evening in a news conference that he had a conversation with Barr following Cienfuegos' arrest, expressing Mexico's "discontent" for "the lack of information shared in the investigation" and detention of Cienfuegos.

The official said he did not have direct knowledge of any ultimatums Mexico might have made during negotiations, such as limiting the DEA's ability to work jointly with Mexican security forces, but said senior Mexican diplomats definitely expressed their unhappiness with the US.

Mexican prosecutors had opened their own investigation into Cienfuegos after his arrest in the US, the joint US-Mexico statement said.

In July, the same US, attorney's office brought charges against Genaro GarcĂ­a Luna, former Secretary of Public Security, Mexico's top federal investigative agency, for allegedly aiding the Sinaloa cartel's drug trafficking operations.

The deal to return Cienfuegos with only a promise by Mexican authorities to investigate him has angered investigators and prosecutors who have spent years working to target Mexican drug traffickers and the corrupt officials who protected them, according to current and former officials briefed on the matter.

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