• The Financial District


The US Justice Department is dropping its drug trafficking and money laundering case against former Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos, Attorney General William Barr said, Maria Verza and Michael Balsamo reported for the Associated Press (AP).

Barr said the department would drop its case so Cienfuegos “may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged, under Mexican law.” Cienfuegos, who was charged in federal court in Brooklyn, was arrested in Los Angeles last month. In a court filing, acting US Attorney Seth DuCharme said dismissing the case would be “in the public interest of the United States.” Had he been convicted of the charges in the US, he would’ve faced at least 10 years in federal prison.

“The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant ...,” he wrote. The filing added that “the evidence in this case is strong.”

Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, said the decision “is nothing more than a gift, a huge gift” from President Donald Trump to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and may be the first in a series of politically motivated pardons or case closures in the closing days of the Trump administration. Vigil called the decision “absolutely discouraging and disappointing,” predicting that “there is more coming down the road” in terms of pardons or case closings. “No matter how you slice the pie, this is nothing more than a last ditch favor to López Obrador,” Vigil said, noting that “López Obrador has been very subservient to Donald Trump on immigration issues and has hesitated in congratulating Joe Biden.” He added that “the chances of Cienfuegos being convicted in Mexico are slim to none,” and cited the former defense secretary’s political connections in Mexico and the country’s idolization of the military. “This sends a very negative message to US law enforcement agencies, that Donald Trump is willing to politically manipulate judicial proceedings,” he said.

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