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Mexico says it will no longer allow officials' corruption trials in US

Mexico says it will no longer allow officials' corruption trials in US
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Mexico announced on Thursday that it will no longer allow officials charged with corruption to be extradited to the U.S., The Associated Press reports. 

The announcement comes after the Department of Justice (DOJ) said that it would drop charges against former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, and will return him to Mexico. His arrest in Los Angeles last month shook relations between Washington and Mexico City. 

“Whoever is culpable according to our laws will be tried, judged and if applicable sentenced in Mexico, and not in other countries, and that is the basis which has been encouraged with this agreement,” Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said, according to the AP. “That is what has been discussed, what has been agreed and what has been maintained with U.S. authorities.” 

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The news service noted that it's unclear if Mexico will allow drug traffickers to be tried in the U.S., as it usually does, or if the new policy only applies to officials accused of collaborating with drug gangs. 

Mexico’s latest move reportedly suggests that tensions between the two nations are more strained than previously thought. The New York Times reported earlier on Thursday that Mexico threatened to expel agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) if it did not reconsider charges against Cienfuegos. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador denied the reports, according to the AP. 

“We did not threaten to expel the agents. We said we want to be informed and for the cooperation agreements to be respected,” López Obrador said. “I think it is an injustice for innocent people to be put on trial.”

U.S. District Judge Carol Amon of the Eastern District of New York granted the DOJ’s motion to withdraw the case, which prosecutors said was “strong.” He was returned to Mexico on Wednesday and was released, the AP notes. 

Cienfuegos, who served as defense minister 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. 

The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment on the Mexican government's announcement.