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Barr Struck Deal with Mexico to Release Ex-Defense Minister for Senior Cartel Leader

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, former Mexican defense minister.

By Steve Neavling

Mexican authorities agreed to arrest a senior cartel leader in exchange for Attorney General William Barr dismissing drug trafficking charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda.

The deal, first reported by Reuters, sheds more light on an unusual decision that drew criticism from some in Congress and the State Department, as well as former DEA agents.

“Mexico committed to collaborate with the United States in the capture of a primary objective,” a source told Reuters

Daniel Millan, spokesman for Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, responded, “what we agreed was to maintain a united front against crime and cooperation that respects the sovereignty of each country.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman denied both countries had a deal. 

Last week, multiple news outlets reported that Mexican officials were so incensed with the arrest of Cienfuegos that they threaten to remove the DEA from the country.

The unidentified cartel leader is suspected of trafficking large quantities of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans a year. 


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