Nayarit and the Making of a Narco State

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Nayarit rarely makes the headlines in Mexico, far less in the rest of the world. But this fall, the arrest of Mexico’s former secretary of defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, dragged this small and unassuming state into the spotlight. On October 15, Cienfuegos was detained in Los Angeles on charges including conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana in the United States, allegedly working on behalf of the Nayarit-based ‘H-2 Cartel.’

Cienfuegos denied the charges against him, and after a month of behind-the-scenes wrangling, US attorney general William Barr decided that ‘sensitive and important foreign policy considerations’ outweighed the case against Cienfuegos, ordering his release so that he ‘may be investigated and, if appropriate, charged’ in Mexico. For many, Cienfuegos’ arrest and subsequent release is a conspicuous symbol of the intrinsic corruption that plagues the militarized drug war strategy.

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