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Mexico's president: we didn't threaten to expel DEA agents over General Cienfuegos arrest

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference at National Palace in downtown Mexico City, Mexico November 13, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso/File Photo reuters_tickers
This content was published on November 19, 2020 - 18:28

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday said his government did not threaten to expel U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents from Mexico in retaliation for former defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos' arrest on American soil.

A federal judge on Wednesday granted a U.S. government request to drop drug charges against Cienfuegos and return him to Mexico, a move Mexico said would restore trust in the countries' severely strained security ties.

Multiple U.S. news outlets reported that Mexico had threatened the expulsion of U.S. agents over the diplomatic dispute, but Lopez Obrador rejected these accounts during his regular morning news conference on Thursday.

"They are saying that we threatened to expel the DEA agents; we did not threaten anyone, the only thing we did was express our disagreement through diplomatic channels and they understood us very well," the president said.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard reiterated that Mexico had warned of a review of security cooperation in retaliation for not being given advance notice about the investigation and arrest, but emphasized there was no specific threat regarding expelling agents.

Both the Mexican president and the foreign minister emphasized that Mexico was committed to conducting a proper investigation of the powerful general.

"We have no doubt that the attorney general's office will carry out ... an investigation commensurate with the prestige of Mexico and the dignity of our country," said Ebrard.

General Cienfuegos, who was defense secretary under Mexico's then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, was arrested in October at the Los Angeles international airport and accused by U.S. prosecutors of collaborating with one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels.

(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez and Raul Cortes; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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