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Mexico threatened to expel DEA agents if US didn't reconsider charges against ex-defense minister: report

Mexico threatened to expel DEA agents if US didn't reconsider charges against ex-defense minister: report
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Mexico threatened to expel agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) if the U.S. did not reconsider charges against former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, three people familiar with the case told The New York Times

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it would not seek charges against Cienfuegos and return him to Mexico after it opened its own investigation. 

Cienfuegos, who served in the role from 2012 to 2018, was arrested in Los Angeles last month on a DEA warrant and indicted on four counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty to charges this month that he aided the H-2 cartel, according to the newspaper.

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The Times reported that the Justice Department had not alerted Mexican officials when it indicted him last year and had waited until he was in the U.S. to arrest him. Normally, U.S. authorities would work with their Mexican counterparts to capture drug trafficking suspects, and they are often arrested in Mexico. 

After his arrest, officials met several times in which they expressed anger at having been blindsided by the U.S. and strategized its response, two people familiar with the matter told the newspaper. The people said that the officials felt that the U.S. violated its trust over the arrest of someone as important as Cienfuegos. 

The military was particularly upset, according to the newspaper, and pushed the government to take action. 

Mexican officials had publicly expressed these frustrations, and Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said there would be “a revision” of Mexico’s collaboration with the DEA. 

“There will be cooperation, but it will have to be on a different basis,” he said in an interview with Proceso magazine, according to the Times. “Everything should be different.”

U.S. District Judge Carol Amon of the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday granted the Justice Department's motion to withdraw the case, which prosecutors had previously characterized as "strong."