On November 17, 2020, the Attorney General of the United States William P. Barr and Fiscalía General of Mexico Alejandro Gertz Manero issued a joint statement. The statement announced that the U.S. government has decided to seek dismissal of the U.S. criminal charges against former Mexican Secretary of National Defense General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.
The U.S. government arrested Cienfuegos on October 15, 2020 in Los Angeles, California, on U.S. charges of conspiracy to manufacture, import, and distribute narcotics into the U.S. and money laundering.
The rationale for seeking dismissal was that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), recognizing the strong law enforcement collaboration with Mexico, decided to dismiss U.S. criminal charges, so that Mexico can investigate and, if appropriate, charge him under Mexican law.
The statement explains that the DOJ, at the Fiscalía’s request and pursuant to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Treaty, has furnished Mexico evidence in this case and commits to continued cooperation to support the investigation by Mexican authorities.
Implementation and Implications
Judge Carol B. Amon of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the presiding judge, ordered the acting U.S. attorney Seth DuCharme to personally attend a hearing before her on November 18.
The DOJ explained in a filing with the court to dismiss the case that it decided that its relationship with Mexico and important foreign policy considerations were more important than prosecuting the case.1
As soon as Cienfuegos was arrested, Mexican officials expressed surprise and anger at the absence of disclosure by the U.S. government of its investigation and prosecution of Cienfuegos. Apparently, Mexico was upset of the lack of cooperation on the case, especially since Mexico has extradited most of persons requested by the U.S.2
The upshot was that Mexico gave the U.S. government an ultimatum: the failure to dismiss charges would lead to a termination of Mexican criminal cooperation with the U.S.3
The current issue of the IELR will discuss this matter in more detail.
- Michael S. Schmidt and Natalie Kitroeff, U.S. to Repatriate Mexican Ex-Official, N.Y. Times, Nov. 18, 2020, at A19, col. 1.
- Kevin Sief and May Beth Sheridan, U.S. agrees to return former Mexican official, Wash. Post, Nov. 18, 2020, at A19, col. 5.