As Mexico’s military staged its annual Independence Day parade in September, spectators filled the main square of Mexico City to cheer on the armed forces. Nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, American officials were also paying attention. But it was not the helicopters hovering overhead or the antiaircraft weapons or the soldiers in camouflage that caught their attention. It was the man chosen to march at the head of the parade, Gen. Moisés García Ochoa, who by tradition typically becomes the country’s next minister of defense.
The Obama administration had many concerns about the general, including the Drug Enforcement Administration’s suspicion that he had links to drug traffickers and the Pentagon’s anxiety that he had misused military supplies and skimmed money from multimillion-dollar defense contracts. In the days leading up to Mexico’s presidential inauguration on Dec. 1, the United States ambassador to Mexico, Anthony Wayne, met with senior aides to President Enrique Peña Nieto to express alarm at the general’s possible promotion.