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World Lopez Obrador criticizes DEA role in Mexico after ex-army chief's arrest

01:30  19 october  2020
01:30  19 october  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the arrest "serves to illustrate that the main problem in Mexico is corruption". His role as the most senior member of the armed forces meant he played a key role in Mexico ' s war on drugs . But there were accusations of complicity between the

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's president has criticized the historic role played by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in his country days after a former Mexican army chief was arrested in Los Angeles on drugs charges at the behest of the DEA.

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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador described Thursday's arrest of ex-Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos as evidence of rampant corruption in past governments. But it also dealt a heavy blow to a powerful institution he relies on.

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Mike Vigil, the DEA ’ s former chief of international operations, said when he was in Mexico in 2012 he heard corruption allegations about Cienfuegos. While current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has vowed to go after corruption and lawbreaking under past administrations , he has also

Lopez Obrador said he only heard about the arrest after the event, though he noted that Mexico ’ s ambassador to the United States, Martha Like Garcia Luna, Cienfuegos had been a major figure in Mexico ’ s drug war, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives over the past two decades.

Speaking in the southern state of Oaxaca on Saturday, Lopez Obrador said the DEA had for years dealt with Cienfuegos and Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico's security minister from 2006-12 who has also been charged in the United States with drug trafficking offenses.

During that time, he noted, U.S. and Mexican officials deliberately allowed arms to be trafficked into Mexico in an attempt to trace them to cartel leaders, leading to many deaths. But only Mexicans were being held accountable, he said.

"Why is it that it's just the people in Mexico who took part in these acts being accused or implicated, and (the DEA) aren't criticizing themselves, reflecting on the meddling by all these agencies in Mexico?" Lopez Obrador said. "They came into the country with complete freedom, they did whatever they wanted."

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Lopez Obrador responded to the Cienfuegos arrest by vowing to root out military corruption - a promise which sits uneasily with the faith he previously put in Mexico ' s generals. Now the same military leaders the president is counting on to pacify Mexico after years of gang violence may end up

General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, Mexico ' s army for six years under ex -President Enrique Peña Nieto, was López Obrador added that any military official linked to Cienfuegos' investigation would be The armed forces have taken an increasingly prominent role in fighting crime in Mexico and

In view of the DEA's involvement, he said, it should give account of what it had done in Mexico.

The DEA did not respond to a request for comment.

The arrest of Cienfuegos has raised uncomfortable questions about Lopez Obrador's faith in the armed forces, which he has given responsibility not just for fighting drug gangs, but also for overseeing vital civilian infrastructure.

Cienfuegos was in charge of the army from 2012-18 under former President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Lopez Obrador has voiced support for Cienfuegos' successor in the army and his navy counterpart.

(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Abraham Gonzalez; Editing by Dave Graham and Daniel Wallis)

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