Genaro García Luna has been found guilty of all charges this Tuesday in New York. After three days of deliberations and four weeks of statements, the jury’s verdict marks the end of the trial for drug trafficking and organized crime against the Secretary of Public Security of the Government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). It has been the highest-profile legal process against a former Mexican official in the United States. Sentencing is scheduled for June 27. The former Federal Police chief and drug czar faces 20 years to life in prison.
“Guilty”. That has been the word that Judge Brian Cogan has read five times after the jury announced that it had reached a unanimous decision. The 12 US citizens chosen to define the fate of García Luna also affirmed that the Prosecutor’s Office managed to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant collaborated for more than 20 years with the Sinaloa Cartel, since he took office as director of the Federal Security Agency. Investigation (AFI) in the Government of Vicente Fox (2000-2006) to date. The former official, former architect of the war against drug trafficking and a trusted man of Calderón, received the verdict visibly nervous. At the end, before leaving the room, he looked at his wife and his two children, and nodded his head. He was not in front of the judge for more than 20 minutes. He never looked more distraught during the judicial process.
Arrested in Texas in December 2019, just five months after Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison, García Luna faced three counts of cocaine trafficking, one for racketeering and another for making false statements in Brooklyn court. The Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, the same one that precipitated the fall of the most famous Mexican capo in recent times, accused him of collaborating for years with the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for million-dollar bribes.
The arrival of the verdict was not without suspense or drama in the final stretch. A couple of minutes after the jury was announced to have reached an agreement, the jurors once again had to leave the room because they forgot to check the “guilty” box on the organized crime charge. In those minutes, the noise of a pin could be heard. The family waited with concern, the lawyers could not hide their uncertainty, and some jurors were moved almost to tears.
No concession was made to the defense, the citizens agreed on all points in contention with the Prosecutor’s Office. “They have done an outstanding job,” Cogan congratulated the jury, who deliberated for more than 15 hours on three different days. “Few countries do this, but we do. We do it because we trust you, we trust your common sense”, said the judge about the decision to leave the decision to 12 citizens.
“With the help of the Government, the cartel grew in terms of territory, in the amount of drugs that we moved, and it eliminated its enemies,” said Sergio Villarreal Barragán, alias The big one, the first witness called to testify at the trial. The same thesis was repeated in the conclusions of the prosecutors. “It is impossible for the cartel to have expanded as it did without the support of the Mexican government,” Assistant Prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy said last Wednesday.
The testimonies of the trial also splashed the Calderón Administration. Édgar Veytia, a former prosecutor from Nayarit and convicted for links to drug trafficking, said that he instructed himself to protect El Chapo Guzmán over the rest of the drug traffickers. “The line was El Chapo,” Veytia said. The former president denied that such orders existed during his tenure. “I never negotiated or agreed with criminals,” the former president replied.
The trial against the former member of the Cabinet put in the dock the war against drug trafficking that was launched during the Calderón government and that marked the meteoric rise of García Luna, until then a second-line official. Feared, ambitious and powerful, the man who put a face on the fight against drugs became one of the most controversial figures in Mexican politics.
By order of the judge and because of how the case was built in the United States, many of the doubts that were raised about the legacy of the former Secretary of Security were left out of court. The process ended at least two weeks earlier than originally planned and was criticized on the other side of the border for the lack of physical evidence. “Where is the evidence?” questioned César de Castro, who heads García Luna’s defense, in various stages of the process. The former official’s lawyers have 45 days to appeal the ruling.
In the trial, some of the most feared drug traffickers of the last decades testified, such as Óscar Nava Valencia The wolfleader of the extinct Milenio Cartel, or jesus The king Zambada, brother of Ismael the may Zambada, founder of the Sinaloa Cartel. Also speaking were former police officers, former Mexican officials, US law enforcement officers and Anthony Wayne, former US ambassador to Mexico. The judicial process unleashed a political storm in Mexico, even with threats by the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to sue De Castro for insinuating that El Rey had also given him bribes. In the middle of the hurricane on the other side of the border, Genaro García Luna risked his future in a United States court.
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