A former Mexican defence minister whose arrest in the United States on drug accusations in 2020 damaged relations between the two countries was honoured with an honorary military decoration on Wednesday.
General Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested in Los Angeles in October 2020 and charged with ties to a worldwide drug trafficking conspiracy, but charges were dropped a month later under severe pressure from Mexico.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador awarded the medal to Cienfuegos, who led Mexico’s army from 2012 to 2018, at a ceremony commemorating the bicentennial of the Heroic Military Academy, which he used to direct.
Cienfuegos was arrested at a Los Angeles airport almost three years ago to the day, suspected of being a member of an international drug trafficking and money laundering network. The United States later dropped its accusations against him, ostensibly as a diplomatic gesture, and he was repatriated to Mexico for further examination.
However, the Mexican Attorney General’s office released Cienfuegos after discovering no evidence of his suspected drug trafficking links. Following Cienfuegos’ release, López Obrador accused the US Drug Enforcement Administration of inventing the allegations against him.
“Why did they do the investigation like that?” López Obrador said at the time. “Without support, without proof?”
Cienfuegos was honoured at the ceremony on Wednesday for his contributions to the military academy during his tenure as director. Another previous army head was also honoured.
Representatives from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Colombia, as well as other South American and Asian countries, attended the ceremony.