A former Mexican presidential cabinet member was convicted Tuesday of accepting massive bribes to protect violent drug cartels in the US.
Amid tight security, an anonymous New York federal court jury deliberated for three days before reaching a verdict in the drug-trafficking case against former Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna.
He is the highest-ranking current or former Mexican official to be tried in the United States.
García Luna, who denies the allegations, led Mexico’s federal police and was then its top public security official from 2006 to 2012. His lawyers said the charges were based on lies by criminals who wanted to punish his drug-fighting efforts and get a break from punishment. For yourself by helping the prosecutors.
He showed no apparent reaction to the pronouncement of a verdict in a case with political ramifications on both sides of the border.
Current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador put García Luna in charge of Mexico’s security at least during his trial against the administration of former President Felipe Calderón. López Obrador’s spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, tweeted after the verdict that “justice has come” for the Calderón aide and that “the crimes committed against our people will never be forgotten.”
García Luna’s work also introduced him to high-level US politicians and other officials, who considered him an important cartel-fighting partner as Washington launched a $1.6 billion push to bolster Mexican law enforcement and stem the flow of drugs. Gave.
The Americans were not accused of wrongdoing, and although suspicions have long swirled around Garcia Luna, the trial did not delve into the extent of US officials’ knowledge about him prior to his 2019 arrest. However, López Obrador has explicitly suggested that Washington conduct its own investigations into law enforcement and intelligence officials who worked with García Luna during Calderón’s administration.
A roster of ex-smugglers and former Mexican officials testified that García Luna took millions of dollars in cartel cash, met with prominent smugglers and kept law enforcement at bay.
That was “the best investment they ever had,” said Sergio “El Grande” Villarreal Barragán, a former federal police officer who worked for the cartel on the side and later as his main job.
He and other witnesses said that under García Luna’s watch, police tipped off traffickers about upcoming raids, ensured that cocaine could pass freely through the country, colluding with cartels to raid rivals. and did other favors. An ex-smuggler said Garcia Luna shared a document that appears to show US law enforcement information about a huge cocaine shipment seized in Mexico around 2007.
Garcia Luna, 54, did not testify at the trial, although his wife took the stand in an apparent effort to portray their wealth in Mexico as legitimately acquired and upper-middle-class, but not opulent. The couple moved to Miami in 2012, when the Mexican administration changed, and he became an advisor on security issues.
Cesar de Castro, a lawyer for Garcia Luna, stressed that prosecutors’ case relied on the testimony of admitted lawbreakers, without recordings, messages or documentary money trail to corroborate them.
In a closing argument, defense attorney César de Castro said, “Nothing supports what these murderers, tyrants, fraudsters and epic drug traffickers have claimed about Genaro García Luna.”
Garcia Luna was indicted on charges that include engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a potential sentence of 20 years to life in prison. His sentencing has been fixed for June 27.
The trial featured glimpses of such narco-extravagance as a private zoo with lions, hippos, white tigers and others. Jurors heard of cocaine being transported through Latin America in shipping containers, go-fast boats, private jets, planes, trains and even submarines.
And they were horrifying reminders of the extraordinary violence that those drugs unleashed.
Witnesses described cartel killings and kidnappings, including the alleged kidnapping of García Luna himself. There was testimony about police officers being slaughtered and drug rivals being dismembered, skinned and hanged from bridges as cartel factions fought each other while buying police protection.
Witnesses said García Luna held meetings with cartel leaders from a country house to car washes and safe houses with bags full of drug money, a warehouse full of cocaine and a fancy Mexico City restaurant.
Oscar “El Lobo” Nava Valencia, an ex-smuggler, said he personally saw García Luna and a then-top police officer “stand by us” during a meeting with associates of notorious Sinaloa cocaine cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. heard saying. in the midst of a cartel civil war. Nava Valencia said that sitting alone caused $3 million in damages to drug gangs.
The testimony also circulated a second claim that former President Calderón sought to shield Guzmán against a major rival; Calderón called the allegation “absurd” and “a complete lie”.
Garcia Luna was arrested in the same New York courtroom nearly four years earlier after testifying about alleged corruption in Guzmán’s high-profile trial.
The former lawman also faces various Mexican arrest warrants and charges related to government technology contracts, prison contracts and the embroiled US “Fast and Furious” investigation that suspects guns illegally made their way from the US to Mexican drug cartels. Was making The Mexican government has also filed a civil lawsuit against Garcia Luna and his alleged associates and businesses in Florida, seeking to recover $700 million that Mexico claims it earned through corruption.
Anti-corruption activists gathered outside the court to celebrate Tuesday’s verdict.
“Our country is so bloody because of corruption,” said Carmen Paes, blaming drug lords in her native Mexico for the disappearance of a nephew decades ago.