Former Mexican defense secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos has pleaded not guilty to U.S. drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Cienfuegos, who led Mexico’s army for six years under ex-President Enrique Peña Nieto, made a remote appearance on Thursday in federal court in New York City. A judge ordered him held without bail until his next court appearance on Nov. 18. The defendant had been brought to the city on Wednesday after being held in California following his arrest last month at Los Angeles International Airport.
The United States Department of Justice has accused the former minister of protecting a cell of the notorious Beltrán Leyva cartel. According to the accusation, during Peña Nieto’s six-year term, Cienfuegos would have been receiving bribes from the H-2 cartel, led by Juan Francisco Patron Sánchez, in exchange for supporting said organization. For the US government, the H-2 is an “extremely violent” cartel that operates in Sinaloa and Nayarit.