Exclusive: U.S. attorney general Barr calls Mexico amid friction over ex-defense minister arrest

Diego Oré
·1 min read
AG Bill Barr tours the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy in Atlanta
AG Bill Barr tours the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy in Atlanta

By Diego Oré

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General William Barr spoke with Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard last week to try to lower bilateral tension arising from the U.S. arrest of a former Mexican defense minister on drugs charges, two Mexican sources said on Monday.

Mexico says it should have had prior warning about the arrest and investigation of the former minister and retired army officer, Salvador Cienfuegos, who pleaded not guilty to drug charges in a Brooklyn federal court last week.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he will announce a review of security cooperation agreements with the United States in light of the case.

Cienfuegos, a top player in Mexico's war on drug gangs until two years ago, is accused of using the power of his office to help a relatively small drug gang, former allies of the Sinaloa Cartel, manufacture and ship drugs including cocaine and heroin to the United States.

The Department of Justice and the New York Eastern District prosecutor's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The sources did not say whether the call succeeded in reassuring Mexico.

(Reporting by Diego Oré; Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)