Still, the military has repeatedly been singled out for human rights abuses and the use of excessive force, including accusations of extrajudicial killings that dogged the armed forces throughout General Cienfuegos's tenure as defense minister.
But no high-ranking Mexican military official has been charged with money laundering and drug trafficking. Such charges would represent a new front in the effort to combat the corruption and extraordinary power wielded by organized crime in Mexico.
General Cienfuegos's arrest does not appear to have been a joint operation with the Mexican government. The case against Mr. Garcia Luna, the retired police official, was the direct result of testimony in the New York trial of the drug lord Joaquin Guzman Loera, better known as El Chapo, who ran the Sinaloa cartel. It was unclear on Friday morning whether the arrest of General Cienfuegos was also related to the case against Mr. Guzman, who was convicted in February 2019 after a three-month trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn.
The Guzman trial exposed the inner workings of his sprawling cartel, which over decades shipped tons of drugs into the United States and plagued Mexico with relentless bloodshed and corruption.
In 2016 and 2017, the years when Mr. Guzman was arrested for a final time and sent to New York to be prosecuted -- at a time when General Cienfuegos was defense minister -- Mexican heroin production increased by 37 percent, and fentanyl seizures at the southwest border more than doubled, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The D.E.A. noted as the case against Mr. Guzman unfolded that the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels "remain the greatest criminal drug threat" to the United States.
Prosecution of the Guzman case was years in the making, and his trial drew upon investigative work by the F.B.I., the D.E.A., the United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations and federal prosecutors in Chicago, Miami, San Diego, Washington, New York and El Paso, Texas. The trial team also relied on scores of local American police officers and the authorities in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.