US Drops Charges Against Former Mexican Defense Minister

Nov 19, 2020
1:37 PM
Originally published at Latin America News Dispatch

UNITED STATES/MEXICO: The United States government dropped drug trafficking and money-laundering charges against Mexico’s former Defense Chief Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda after Mexican officials threatened to toss U.S. agents. A month after general Cienfuegos Zepeda was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport, both U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero said the U.S. Justice Department would request a judge to dismiss the case. In court documents revealed on Tuesday, the Justice Department said that “sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweigh the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution of the defendant.”

Cienfuegos Zepeda has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty. His arrest made him the first former Mexican defense minister to be taken into U.S. custody for drug trafficking charges. He served as a defense secretary in Mexico from 2012 to 2018 under former President Enrique Peña Nieto.



ARGENTINA: President Alberto Fernández will present a new bill to Congress on legalizing abortion—an awaited process that has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. While most countries across Latin America prohibit abortion, it is allowed in Argentina in cases of rape or if the mother’s health is in danger. Fernández, who had previously described abortion as “a matter of public health,” says that taking this measure will help save lives since almost 40,000 women are treated for illegal procedures every year. The abortion debate in Argentina was fueled last year after an 11-year-old rape victim gave birth by C-section. If the bill is passed, Argentina —which is a primarily Roman Catholic nation— will become the largest country in the region to legalize abortion.


PERU: Violeta Bermúdez Valdivia will become the new prime minister of Peru, according to sources from La República. Bermúdez is a lawyer from Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos who specializes in gender, vulnerable populations and public policy. She will now head the cabinet of Francisco Sagasti, who assumed the presidency this week. Bermúdez Valdivia previously served as deputy minister for Woman and Human Development, as well as head of the cabinet of advisers to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Until 2017, Bermúdez Valdivia directed USAID’s ProDecentralization program, which sought to implement policies for the State and improve public services in health, education and the environment.


PUERTO RICO: A local judge ordered the State Elections Commission to deliver to the five electoral commissioners, who represent each electoral party, the lists of absentee and early voters in the past general elections, held this month. The lists were to be given by Wednesday noon and before the scrutiny began, but electoral commissioners claim no lists were given. As elections commission officials began to open the briefcases Wednesday night, members of the Citizen Victory Movement (MVC) protested. The court order was enforced after MVC’s electoral commissioner, Olvin Valentín, appealed to the courts, in order to confirm that there is no double voting or any other irregularity.  The director of the commission scrutiny Ferdinand Ocasio claimed that the judge’s order “does not affect anything in the work of the tables,” and that a list will be given after a briefcase is opened. The elections commission is continuing to investigate the briefcases. Nearly 200 briefcases with thousands of uncounted votes were found a week after Puerto Rico’s November 3 general election.

JAMAICA: The Jamaican government on Tuesday began a multimillion-dollar pilot public healthcare program in partnership with four private health facilities to provide primary care to non-COVID-19 clients with diabetes and hypertension. Health and Wellness Minister Christopher Tufton said that the $100 million pilot program intends to relieve public health centers of using more resources in order to focus more on COVID-19 cases. Under the program, local health centers can identify eligible patients and refer them to a private practitioner and have no out-of-pocket costs. The country has had 10,019 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 223 related deaths as of Wednesday.


REGION/COLOMBIA: The death tolls and devastation of Hurricane Iota continue to rise in Central America, as thousands are without drinking water, food and basic supplies. In Nicaragua, where Iota arrived only 15 miles from where Eta made landfall, the death toll rose to 16 on Wednesday. As many as 30 people were feared to have been buried in a landslide caused by rain in Matagalpa. On the Colombian island of Providencia, located in the Caribbean Sea, two people are reported dead, and 98% of the island’s infrastructure was damaged and a hospital was destroyed. The Colombian government said it has been unable to take humanitarian action due to the dangerous weather conditions. Although 112 people have been evacuated, the island’s internet and telephone services have been down for over 24 hours, making any kind of communication impossible. President Iván Duque said in a news conference Wednesday that this is the most serious hurricane to ever hit the country.


UNITED STATES: A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to stop expelling immigrant children without a legal guardian of age. Judge Emmet Sullivan issued a preliminary injunction sought by groups suing on behalf of the children the government has expelled or sought to expel, which has totaled to 8,800 unaccompanied children since March. The order bars the expulsion of children unaccompanied by a parent. The Trump administration has argued it must expel children and has used the pandemic as a pretext.

MEXICO: The city of Juárez is estimated to have 15,800 active cases of COVID-19, according to health authorities. Active cases after PCR testing show that there are 158 cases, which should be multiplied by 100 for an estimated 15,800 people with the disease. However, there’s not an exact number. Wendy Ávila, the subdirector of Preventative Medicine, has reminded people in the city of preventative measures such as keeping a safe distance and using masks when in public to avoid the spread of the disease.


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