2:21:20 AM PDT - Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

Who Was 'El Padrino,' Godfather to Drug Cartel? Mexico's Defense Chief, U.S. Says  

By Editor - Sat Oct 17, 9:36 am

MEXICO CITY — American law enforcement agents were listening in as Mexican cartel members chattered on a wiretap, talking about a powerful, shadowy figure known as El Padrino, or The Godfather.Agents had been closing in on him for months, suspecting that this central figure in the drug trade was a high-ranking official in the Mexican military.All of a sudden, one of the people under surveillance told his fellow cartel members that El Padrino happened to be on television at that very moment. The agents quickly checked to see who it was — and found it was the Mexican secretary of defense, Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, according to four American officials involved in the investigation.In that moment, the authorities say, they finally confirmed that the mystery patron of one of the nation's most violent drug cartels was actually the leader in charge of waging Mexico's war against organized crime.It was a stunning display of how deep the tendrils of organized crime run in Mexico, and on Thursday night Cienfuegos was taken into custody by the American authorities at the Los Angeles airport while traveling with his family.Even for Mexico, a country often inured to the unrelenting violence and corruption that have gripped it for years, the arrest was nothing less than extraordinary, piercing the veil of invincibility that the nation's armed forces have long enjoyed.Cienfuegos, Mexico's defense minister from 2012 to 2018, is being charged with laundering money and trafficking heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana from late 2015 through early 2017, according to an indictment unsealed in the Eastern District of New York on Friday.The charges are the result of a multiyear sting that investigators called Operation Padrino. Officials say that Cienfuegos helped the H-2 cartel, a criminal group that committed horrific acts of violence as part of its drug smuggling business, with its maritime shipments. In exchange for lucrative payouts, officials say, Cienfuegos also directed military operations away from the cartel and toward its rivals.The news not only casts a pall over Mexico's fight against organized crime, but also underscores the extent of corruption at the highest levels of government

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Who Was 'El Padrino,' Godfather to Drug Cartel? Mexico's Defense Chief, U.S. Says

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