Drug trial starts for Mexico’s former top security official

Jan 16, 2023, 7:01 AM | Updated: Jan 17, 2023, 5:53 pm
Cesar De Castro, attorney for Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico's former top security official, arrives to...

Cesar De Castro, attorney for Genaro Garcia Luna, Mexico's former top security official, arrives to Federal court in Brooklyn, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in New York. Luna goes on trial on charges of helping the Sinaloa Cartel traffic drugs and protect them from capture while he was serving as Mexico’s top security official. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The man who was once Mexico’s top security official and in charge of fighting the drug cartels went on trial Tuesday on charges he accepted millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for helping the powerful Sinaloa Cartel move drugs and its members avoid capture.

Genaro García Luna was best known as the mumbling, tough-looking former security secretary under ex-President Felipe Calderón, who spearheaded the bloody war on cartels between 2006 and 2012.

Prosecutors say García Luna was so brazen he accepted tens of millions of dollars, often stuffed in briefcases. The evidence against him includes pay stubs, though whether they are from official jobs, private sector consultancy, cartel payments or other bribes is unclear.

They say he continued to live off his ill-gotten proceeds even after he moved to the United States, where he was arrested in 2019, though the defense says he was a legitimate businessman. Jury selection was scheduled to continue Wednesday in the trial scheduled to unfold over the next eight weeks.

In the end, the case could reveal the inner workings of how Mexican cartels have been able to operate so openly for so long: by bribing Mexican police and military right up to the top ranks.

“For decades, Mexico’s political elite, of all parties, has sought by any means to have security ministers, generals, police commanders, interior secretaries and high-ranking officials tried and imprisoned in Mexico. … All that to avoid them giving information on the ties between the drug cartels and politicians,” said Mexican security analyst David Saucedo. “García Luna’s trial in the United States breaks with that pattern.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has welcomed the trial, which is expected to cast light on corruption in the administration of Calderón, whom the president accuses of robbing him of the presidency in 2006.

But López Obrador himself fought tooth and nail to avoid a U.S. trial of former Defense Secretary Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos on similar charges in 2020, at one point threatening to kick agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration out of Mexico unless the general was returned, which he was.

The trial begins just days after U.S. President Joe Biden met with López Obrador in Mexico City. The two governments pledged continued cooperation against the drug cartels, especially against the scourge of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which contributed to more than 107,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2021. López Obrador scrapped the civilian federal police force that García Luna once led and put the military in charge of much of the country’s security.

“It’s not the same to put a civilian PAN official on trial, as it is to put a defense secretary on trial, when your whole national security policy rests on the armed forces,” said Ana Vanessa Cárdenas, an international security analyst at the Anahuac University, referring to Calderón’s conservative National Action Party.

García Luna has pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges and a continuing criminal enterprise. He could face decades in prison if convicted.

What he will face in a Brooklyn courtroom is a parade of government witnesses, including high-level cartel members of a kind not seen in Brooklyn since Sinaloa boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was convicted there in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison. Some accusations against García Luna surfaced at the Guzmán trial.

“While holding public office, (García Luna) used his official positions to assist the Sinaloa Cartel … in exchange for multimillion-dollar bribes,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace wrote in a court filing last week. “At trial, the government expects that numerous witnesses, including several former high-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel, will testify about bribes paid to the defendant in exchange for protection.”

In exchange for the bribes, García provided the Sinaloa Cartel with “safe passage for its drug shipments, sensitive law enforcement information about investigations into the cartel, and information about rival drug cartels,” Peace wrote. “These payments allowed the cartel at times to receive warnings in advance of law enforcement efforts to apprehend cartel members and to allow cartel members to be released if arrested.”

Before convicting Guzmán in 2019, jurors in his New York trial heard former cartel member Jesús Zambada testify that he personally made at least $6 million in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

The cartel is now believed to be run by Zambada and at least three of Guzmán’s sons, one of whom was arrested earlier this month on an extradition request from the United States.

García Luna isn’t the first top Mexican official arrested for involvement with drug traffickers. Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo was made Mexico’s drug czar by President Ernesto Zedillo in 1996. He was arrested the following year after it was discovered he was living in a luxury apartment owned by the leader of the Juarez cartel, Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Indian police nab over 2,000 men for illegal child marriages

GUWAHATI, India (AP) — Indian police have arrested more than 2,000 men in a crackdown on illegal child marriages involving girls under the age of 18 in a northeastern state, officials said Saturday. Those arrested this week included more than 50 Hindu priests and Muslim clerics for allegedly performing marriages for underage girls in Assam, […]
1 day ago
FILE - The Starbucks logo is seen on a storefront, Friday, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston Starbucks repor...
Associated Press

Starbucks misses sales, revenue estimates as China falters

Starbucks reported lower-than-expected sales in its fiscal first quarter, with COVID store shutdowns in China overshadowing stronger results elsewhere.
1 day ago
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks during a news conference of the Association of Sou...
Associated Press

ASEAN vows to conclude pact with China on disputed territory

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Southeast Asian foreign ministers vowed to finalize negotiations with China over a proposed pact aimed at preventing conflicts in the disputed South China Sea in their annual retreat on Saturday in Indonesia’s capital. In the final session of their two-day meeting, the ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also […]
1 day ago
A girl looks at a photo of the famed mountain lion known as P-22 as the exhibit wall is covered wit...
Associated Press

Famed LA mountain lion’s death shines light on tribal talks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The life of Los Angeles’ most famous mountain lion followed a path known only to the biggest of Hollywood stars: Discovered on-camera in 2012, the cougar adopted a stage name and enjoyed a decade of celebrity status before his tragic death late last year. The popular puma gained fame as P-22 […]
1 day ago
FILE - A ferry berths as a partially illuminated Colombo Lotus Tower, a multi complex digital trans...
Associated Press

Sri Lanka marks independence anniversary amid economic woes

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Sri Lanka marked its 75th independence anniversary on Saturday as a bankrupt nation, with many citizens angry, anxious and in no mood to celebrate. Many Buddhists and Christian clergy had announced a boycott of the celebration in the capital, while activists and others expressed anger at what they see as […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Friday’s Scores

BOYS PREP BASKETBALL= Almira/Coulee-Hartline 51, Selkirk 31 Annie Wright 71, Bellevue Christian 45 Chiawana 84, Hanford 44 Cle Elum/Roslyn 78, Kittitas 25 Clover Park 75, Washington 53 Crescent 44, Clallam Bay 34 Crosspoint Academy 64, Rainier Christian 24 Davis 65, Sunnyside 63 DeSales 81, Sunnyside Christian 67 Decatur 73, Highline 50 Eastside Prep 59, University […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Drug trial starts for Mexico’s former top security official