Wednesday, November 18, 2020

U.S. drops charges against Cienfuegos (Nov. 18, 2020)

 The U.S. Justice Department abruptly decided to drop drug trafficking and corruption charges against former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos. Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles last month, will be returned to Mexico in a stunning reversal that left observers reeling.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr portrayed the decision as "a recognition of the strong law enforcement partnership between Mexico and the United States, and in the interests of demonstrating our united front against all forms of criminality," and said Mexican officials will investigate Cienfuegos and charge him if appropriate.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, welcomed what he called a “gesture of respect” towards Mexico and its armed forces, not a “path towards impunity” for an alleged criminal, reports the Guardian.

The arrest was originally touted as a window into high level corruption and collusion with criminal organizations within the Mexican government. But diplomatic considerations appear to have played a strong role in the reversal. “The United States has determined that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant, under the totality of the circumstances, and therefore require dismissal of the case,” wrote prosecutors asking a U.S. judge to dismiss the charges. (Aristegui Noticias)

Mexican officials voiced displeasure that they weren't warned of the arrest in advance, and received evidence against Cienfuegos only afterwards, reports the New York Times. Possible reasons for the reversal could also include preservation of military cooperation between the two countries. If the United States hadn’t agreed to drop the charges against Cienfuegos, “the army would have held off on any kind of cooperation with the U.S. for a decade," Alejandro Hope told the Washington Post

Other analysts pointed to the cozy relationship between U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador who still hasn't officially recognized Trump's loss in this month's presidential election.

Cienfuegos would not necessarily be placed in custody in Mexico, reports the Associated Press. “In Mexico, he will be received by the Attorney General’s Office,” Ebrard said. “In what status will he come? That of a Mexican citizen who does not face charges in the United States at this moment.”

News Briefs

  • At least six people have been killed and more than 60,000 evacuated after Hurricane Iota struck Nicaragua yesterday. U.S. president-elect Joe Biden said the increasing frequency of powerful storms in the Atlantic this year is one reason fighting climate change will be a priority for his administration. (Guardian)
  • Hurricane Iota slowed yesterday as it moved across Nicaragua toward Honduras, but heavy rainfall could trigger life-threatening flooding in areas soaked by Hurricane Eta just two weeks ago. (New York Times)
  • The vast majority of infrastructure on the Colombian island of Providencia -- 98 percent-- was destroyed by Hurricane Iota, which hit with Category 5 force on Monday. At least one person was killed. The 17-square-kilometer island has about 5,000 inhabitants and is part of the San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina archipelago. The hurricane also caused great material damage on the island of San Andrés. (Al JazeeraDeutsche WelleQ24N)
  • Protesters in several Latin American countries last year met with heavy handed repression by security forces last year. Human Rights Watch documented dozens of cases of excess force and negligence in Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Haiti, and Bolivia in the course of 2019. Police violence often exacerbated tensions with protesters in these countries and indicates the need for urgent reform, write Juan Pappier and César Muñoz Acebes in a New York Times Español op-ed. "Police abuses in Latin America tend to be the result of generalized impunity, lack of supervision and an institutional culture of opacity that tolerates, and, on occasion, encourages abuse," write the Human Rights Watch investigators.
  • Que sea ley: Argentine President Alberto Fernández re-launched the country’s debate over legal abortion yesterday, with a bill that would permit women to voluntarily end pregnancies until 14 weeks, and guarantees free access to the procedure. Fernández framed the issue as one of public health, aimed at preventing harm to women who seek abortions regardless of their legal status. He accompanied the proposal with a bill dubbed the “1,000 Day Plan,” a comprehensive welfare program to support women during pregnancy and the first few years of children’s lives. (Página 12)
  • Suriname authorities arrested former Vice President Ashwin Adhin in an investigation into the alleged destruction of equipment in the vice presidential office after his party lost power in the May elections. President Chandrikapersad Santokhi said that Adhin, who is a legislator, had been detained and questioned, reports the Associated Press.
  • Cuba has two coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials, and could become an important supplier to neighboring countries that might otherwise struggle to access vaccine supply as wealthy Western nations rush to secure doses, reports Reuters.
  • The theft of livestock, crops and farming equipment - known as praedial larceny - is on the rise in Jamaica. The practise has increased in response to the Covid-19 pandemic's economic impact, and women are more likely to be targets, reports Reuters.

Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ...   


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