Home Feature The secret brotherhood of General Cienfuegos that bent the DEA – It is called “The Syndicate.”

The secret brotherhood of General Cienfuegos that bent the DEA – It is called “The Syndicate.”

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Within the Mexican Army, a group of great power mobilized to pressure President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to issue instructions to bring home, safe and sound, the former Secretary of National Defense. It was either that or to face a rebellion in the troops. A story of EME-EQUIS journalists.

MEXICO CITY (EMME EQUIS) – Neither Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard nor the country’s Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero was the one who got the return ticket to Mexico for General Salvador Cienfuegos.

Those truly responsible for the ex-Secretary of National Defense returning to the country as a free man, in a private plane and guarded by U.S. marshals, is a brotherhood within the Mexican Army that calls itself “El Sindicato” -The Syndicate-.

This group includes the country’s highest-ranking military, some retired and others active, who pull the Armed Forces strings. They are four gold star generals who immediately mobilized as a block when they learned that the DEA detained their colleague, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, in the United States under four criminal charges that linked him to the Beltrán-Leyva cartel.

Mexican Army sources told EMEEQUIS that only a few hours had passed since the surprising news of that October 15, when a representative of the “Sindicato” knocked on the door of the office of the Secretary of National Defense, Luis Cresencio Sandoval.

The person was a well-known Brigadier General with experience in fighting cartels in the north of the country, who left at the door the considerations of a long friendship with Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval and, coldly, sent him the message of the high hierarchy of the Mexican Army.

In general terms, the message was that the high commands of the Army were not going to stand idly by while a foreign government shattered their credibility. “Pass on the message to the president because it seems that our government is not defending one of its own,” said the source consulted.

The arrest instantly turned into a major disagreement among officers: lieutenants, captains, majors, colonels, and generals, who complained that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Commander-in-Chief of Mexico’s Armed Forces. He seemed more allied with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) than with the powerful “Syndicate” of the Mexican Army that pulls strings on the federal government’s crucial issues. Among those, the National Guard or the new airport in Santa Lucía or the refinery in Dos Bocas, Tabasco.

Among the military ranks,” the source consulted tells us, “a frank disagreement began to develop with the President, who was seen as not very convincing in the face of the lack of diplomacy of the United States government for arresting General Salvador Cienfuegos without warning or binational courtesies.

But even the most patient ones in the Secretariat of National Defense – those who asked to give the president time – lost their temper when General Salvador Cienfuegos left California and the DEA took him to New York. There his fate seemed to be a cell for the rest of his days for allegedly protecting capo Juan Francisco Patrón Sánchez, “The H-2,” for 14 months in exchange for million-dollar bribes.

Then, “El Sindicato” raised the pressure. Several more knocked on the door and called Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval, who had to inform the President that a risk of a rebellion in the troops. 

The rest is a story already known to journalists in the United States: from the National Palace, Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard was ordered by AMLO to harden the tone of the demand for the arrest of the ex-Secretary of National Defense and to insist on the demand that, if the military’s crimes had been committed in Mexico, he should be returned to his country to be judged according to national laws.

To strengthen the claim, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Attorney General’s Office announced to the U.S. government that if General Salvador Cienfuegos was not returned to his country, Mexico would “evaluate” its plans to collaborate with the DEA.

That “evaluation” is a euphemism to imply that the Mexican government would stop sharing with the United States sensitive information about drug cartel activities and other measures that would impact public safety on the other side of the border.

Although some analysts have speculated that another negotiation letter would have been related to the U.S. elections results, the EMEEQUIS source has corroborated that this is true until the time of publication of this text.


“What was put on the table was the collaboration with the DEA, something that hurts the U.S. agencies a lot. In the end, they had to give in because that binational relationship is more important to them than catching a single individual no matter how high up the ladder he or she may be,” the source said.

After the Mexican threat, the U.S. government agreed to return General Salvador Cienfuegos to his country under the conditions proposed by “El Sindicato”: with the criminal charges dropped and without having his assets seized or his bank accounts frozen.

The military brotherhood managed to ensure that the retired general’s return was not conditioned on the Attorney General’s Office keeping him in custody or free on bail. In other words, Salvador Cienfuegos was to return to Mexico as a free man.

The only stain in the “Syndicate” perfect plan was that the U.S. government shared the evidence against the former Secretary of National Defense with the Attorney General’s Office. A case that the Justice Department itself described as “solid” in the same document in which it asked Judge Carol B. Amon the lifting of charges against the decorated military man. However, neither is a condition of his return that the Mexican justice system prosecutes him for any crime.

Beyond that, everything has been a celebration at the top of the Mexican Army. “El Sindicato” bent the DEA and got a return plane ticket for General Salvador Cienfuegos in an unthinkable maneuver and in record time.

Read EME EQUIS the original publication in Spanish.

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