On Tuesday, a former high-ranking Mexican law enforcement official who was assigned to battle drug cartels was found guilty in a New York court of taking bribes worth millions of dollars from drug smugglers.
Mexico's former Secretary of Public Safety Genaro García Luna was found guilty of several charges this Tuesday including bribery and drug trafficking.
Marco Ugarte / AP
A jury in Brooklyn, New York, ruled that Genaro Garcia Luna, a former head of Mexico's federal police and Secretary of Public Security, was guilty of aiding the Sinaloa cartel, which was led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman at the time. Guzman is now serving a life sentence in an American prison.
Garcia Luna is the highest-ranking Mexican official to ever be tried in the U.S. and is facing a possible prison sentence ranging from 20 years to life.
He was convicted of various offenses, including passing inside information to the Sinaloa cartel. This allowed them to bring large quantities of cocaine and other drugs into the United States and permitted them to target competing gangs.
The elected official designated to fight against El Chapo and the drug cartels to protect the public was actually just a pawn paid off by the criminal gangs to look the other way.
It's sad, but this corruption scandal is all too common in Mexico which is part of the reason it's still the most dangerous place in the world for journalists as 94% of crimes go unreported and 9 of 10 homicides do not get adjudicated.
The attention on the lengthy trial in a Brooklyn court was intense in Mexico, where the public was captivated by the vivid accounts of cartel members supplying massive bribes to Garcia Luna through briefcases, duffel bags, and a suitcase.
At President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's daily news briefings, there have been many updates on the trial, with professional videos prepared by the government. The proceedings allowed him to criticize former President Felipe Calderon, with whom he has had a longstanding rivalry.
Garcia Luna was the head of public safety throughout the entire duration of Calderon's presidency, from 2006 to 2012, a role widely known as the drug czar.
When he was in office, Calderon implemented a strategy with backing from the U.S. that was marked by violence with Garcia Luna as a visible figurehead during the drug war. This crusade had a great human cost but was unsuccessful in diminishing the power of cartels or the smuggling of drugs across the border.
A spokesperson on behalf of Lopez Obrador tweeted in response to the verdict, “Justice has come for the former squire of Felipe Calderon. The crimes against our people will never be forgotten.”
On Tuesday, Calderon, who has denied any knowledge of illegal actions by his ex-chief of police, did not offer an immediate response. Nonetheless, he did confess to hearing "rumors" of Garcia Luna having been involved in wrongdoings. His lack of comment was met with severe criticism on social media and in the media following the ruling.
Luis Eliud Tapia, a human rights lawyer in Mexico, expressed in a tweet that he hopes Felipe Calderon is experiencing a sense of fear and terror, similar to the one caused by his misguided war on numerous Mexican families.
According to Denise Dresser, a Mexican political commentator, the ruling against Calderon has put him in an awkward situation. She tweeted that either he was aware and complicit in the events that led to the current state of the country, or he was unaware and incompetent. Regardless, both accusations are indictments of his responsibility in the war, violence, militarization, and narco State that Mexico experiences today.
Garcia Luna, as the leader of public safety, had intimate contact with the American law enforcement personnel. President Lopez Obrador has requested that American authorities investigate the behaviors of U.S. anti-narcotics agents and any other personnel that had an association with Garcia Luna.
A civil lawsuit has been filed by Mexico in Florida courts to attempt to reclaim the millions of dollars that are believed to be embezzled by Garcia Luna.
The initials AMLO are commonly associated with President Lopez Obrador, who insists that his tenure has substantially curtailed the widespread corruption that has been entrenched in Mexico for several years.
Some Mexicans find the idea that local law enforcement and politicians are not involved with the drug cartels absurd, given the overwhelming influence these groups have.
Since his election, Lopez Obrador has substantially developed the security and economic standing of the Mexican armed forces, a powerful group that has often been accused of human rights violations and misconduct.
In 2020, Lopez Obrador was highly vocal after ex-Mexican defense secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos's arrest at LAX. He was apprehended due to corruption charges which caused fury among Mexico's military leaders, who are closely linked to Lopez Obrador, and were quick to label the accusations as "rubbish".
Subsequently, the Trump government gave in, dismissed the accusations, and sent Cienfuegos back to Mexico.
Garcia Luna was under strict security when a jury of a New York federal court anonymously debated for three days before delivering a ruling on his drug trafficking matter.
Garcia Luna's attorneys declared that the accusations against him were false, claiming that they originated from criminals who sought revenge for his anti-drug campaigns and to obtain lighter sentences through cooperation with prosecutors.
A group of old smugglers and ex-Mexican authorities affirmed that ex-security head Garcia Luna was given millions of dollars by the cartel, had meetings with major drug runners, and kept the police away.
Sergio "El Grande" Villarreal Barragan, a former federal police officer who worked both for cartels and independently, proclaimed that he was "the best investment they had," and that they encountered "absolutely no problems" with their operations.
At the trial, an indirect statement was made that Calderon had supposedly tried to guard Guzman, who was the previous head of the Sinaloa cartel, from a noteworthy opponent. Calderon denied this, saying it was preposterous and "an absolute lie."
Garcia Luna was taken into custody after the high-profile trial of Guzman, who is currently serving a life sentence in the U.S. "supermax" prison, took place in the New York courthouse over three years ago.