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Mexico’s former defense minister pleads not guilty in US case

Mexican Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos at a military base in Mexico City on April 16, 2016. (Rolando Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos pleaded not guilty Thursday in New York to U.S. charges that he helped a notorious drug cartel while he was the head of his country’s military.

Cienfuegos, 72, who served as defense minister under former President Enrique Pena Nieto, entered his plea via video conference feed before U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold in Brooklyn.

The former Mexican government official was arrested last month in Los Angeles on charges that he aided the H-2 drug cartel by targeting its rivals for military action and warning it of U.S. investigations, among other acts.

Cienfuegos remains held without bail at a federal jail in Brooklyn after a judge ruled he lacked ties to the U.S. and said the defendant would be highly motivated to flee because of the seriousness of the charges.

Prosecutors argued Cienfuegos could flee to Mexico where the H-2 Cartel as well as former Mexican government officials could help him evade authorities.

He will return to court to make an initial appearance before U.S. Judge Carol Amon in Brooklyn on Nov. 18.


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