As Secretary of National Defense in Mexico, Salvador Cienfuegos had under his command a group of trusted military personnel who held the strategic or higher hierarchy positions, and who months before his retirement from the Army, were promoted by the General himself to relieve him in the position of Secretary.
There were at least four military personnel close to Cienfuegos, two of them currently active in key Sedena posts, but none came to the post of Secretary. This responsibility finally came to Luis Crescencio Sandoval, who, although in December 2017 was appointed by Cienfuegos himself as Commander of the Fourth Military Region in Nuevo León and Tamaulipas, was not of the nearest circle of the General.
Read more Everyone involved with the Cienfuegos case will be suspended, AMLO warns
In fact, Sandoval was not in the Cienfuegos relay proposal. The appointment was made directly by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who this October 16 at his morning conference said that he personally chose him.
«In the particular case of General Luis Crescencio Sandoval González, I proposed it after doing an in-depth investigation. And his appointment did not arise from those proposed at the time by the Ministry of Defence, that is, General Sandoval was not proposed by the then Secretary of Defense. And it can be said that it was not for the Secretary of Defense to propose, but I asked both the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense at the time to present me with options, to propose to me ternas, and in neither case, neither in The Navy nor in Defense, I took into consideration those proposals,» said the President of Mexico.
.@lopezobrador_ considered it regrettable that Salvador Cienfuegos was arrested for links to drug trafficking, and stated that the @SEDENAmx officials involved in the case will be suspended and made available to the authorities. https://t.co/KK4RMNnkMt pic.twitter.com/vOKYePoF1h
— Political Animal (@Pajaropolitico) October 16, 2020
All the General’s men
One of the military driven by Salvador Cienfuegos to succeed him was Pedro Felipe Gurrola Ramírez, who from December 1, 2017 to December 1, 2018 served as Inspector and General Controller of the Army and Air Force, in Mexico City.
Since December 3, 2018, Gurrola has been Commander of the V Military Region, comprising the states of Jalisco, Colima, Aguascalientes, Zacatecas and Nayarit, the latter state where former Secretary Cienfuegos is presumed to have provided protection to a senior lieutenant of the Beltran Leyva Organization (OBA).
In addition to serving as military commander in Sinaloa, Gurrola was Commander of the «Sierra Madre» Task Force in the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua, in the municipalities of the so-called golden drug triangle in Mexico.
Another general who pushed Cienfuegos to succeed him was Alejandro Saavedra Hernández, current Director of the Institute of Social Security for the Mexican Armed Forces since December 1, 2018.
General Saavedra commanded the 35th Military Zone when 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared on 26 September 2014. In his custody was the 27th Infantry Battalion that was in the so-called Iguala Night.
The disappearance of the 43 students involved suspected members of the Guerreros Unidos group, a criminal split of the Beltran Leyva Organization in Guerrero.
The third military man close to Cienfuegos, of those proposed to relieve him, was Roble Arturo Granados, who served as Chief of Staff until 2017, and later occupied the Undersecretariat of National Defense. He held that position until the last day of Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration.
Prior to these positions, he had served as commander of the 40th and 45th Military Zone, in the municipalities of Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sir, and Nogales, Sonora, respectively.
The fourth military officer close to General Cienfuegos was Eduardo Emilio Zárate Landero, who held various positions and entrustments within the management of Cienfuegos, the last of them as Senior Officer from December 2017 to November 2018.
He was also Commander of the V Military Region, covering Nayarit, among other states, from June 2016 to December 2017; Commander of the First Army Corps from January 2015 to April 2016; Commander of the III Military Region in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, from February 2014 to January 2015; prior to that he served as Rector of the Army University from June 2012 to February 2014.
So far, none of these Generals are investigated in Mexico for crimes of crime oraccording to judicial sources consulted by Animal Político, however in the words of President López Obrador himself all the military «who are involved in… (the) matter of General Cienfuegos who are acting in government, in the Ministry of Defence, will be suspended, withdrawn and, if applicable, made available to the competent authorities. We’re not going to cover up for anyone, that time has passed.»
One of the arguments used by the U.S. Department of Justice to ask Judge Vera M. Scanlon not to give Cienfuegos a chance to seek bail to face his trial at large is that the Mexican general poses «a significant risk of escape,» for his connections to «corrupt» officials and former officials and narco leaders.
The letter to justify this point verbatim mentions that «the evidence supporting these serious charges is sound, including thousands of intercepted communications between members of the H-2 Cartel, the defendant and other corrupt officials, the testimony of multiple witnesses who cooperated with respect to H-2 Cartel operations, and numerous drug seizures. Given the significant jail time the defendant faces when convicted, he has a strong incentive to flee jurisdiction.»
Not only that. He argues that the defendant will also «probably seek to leverage his connections to senior officials, members of the H-2 Cartel in Mexico, as well as former high-level corrupt government officials, to help him flee and house U.S. law enforcement in Mexico.»
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