Security & Strategic Review - December 2020

MEXICO: ‘El Padrino’ case marks unprecedented test for security cooperation with US

The surprise arrest in the US of Mexico’s former defence minister, Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda (2012-2018), on drug trafficking related charges has produced a watershed moment that could reshape Mexico-US relations. Following an unprecedented agreement between the two governments, the US agreed to drop the charges and return Cienfuegos to Mexico so that he could be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted there. Cienfuegos’s case now poses a new challenge for bilateral security cooperation efforts. Its outcome will go a long way to answering the latent questions over how much the Mexican authorities can be entrusted with a major criminal case and whether Mexico and the US can ever fully collaborate when it comes to fighting transnational organised crime.

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