US authorities have arrested the former top security official in Mexico during the administration of former President Felipe Calderón on drug charges and taking bribes from traffickers, a bombshell development following the trial of the former kingpin “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Genaro García Luna, the Secretary of Public Security in Mexico from 2006 to 2012, was arrested December 9 in the state of Texas. In exchange for “multimillion-dollar bribes,” US prosecutors allege that García Luna “permitted the Sinaloa Cartel to operate with impunity in Mexico,” the US Justice Department announced in a December 10 press release.
García Luna was the head of Mexico’s federal police for six years, during which time the Sinaloa Cartel “obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, sensitive law enforcement information about investigations into the cartel and information about rival drug cartels,” according to US authorities.
In 2010, while García Luna was atop the federal police, the Mexican economist and lawyer Edgardo Buscaglia estimated that the Sinaloa Cartel controlled some 45 percent of Mexico's drug trade. However, the cartel's members represented only about two percent of those arrested on organized crime charges between 2004 and 2010, according to a report from The Economist at the time.
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On at least two occasions, prosecutors allegedly have evidence that Sinaloa Cartel bagmen delivered bribes to García Luna via briefcases stuffed with between $3 million and $5 million in cash. García Luna was a millionaire by the time he retired from public service and relocated to the United States in 2012.
If convicted, García Luna faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life behind bars.
“I do not know of any details and I am awaiting information that confirms these facts,” former President Calderón said in response to to the allegations on Twitter. “My position will always be in favor of law and justice.”
Since Calderón kicked off the so-called “war on drugs” against Mexico’s organized crime groups in 2006 -- of which García Luna was the prime architect -- some 200,000 citizens have been murdered while tens of thousands more have disappeared. The war continues to rage on today to no avail, even after its top target, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias “El Chapo,” was sentenced to life for leading a drug trafficking empire earlier this year.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of García Luna is a damning sign that authorities, at least in the United States, are zeroing in on the pervasive corruption within the Mexican government that was prominently put on display during the US trial of El Chapo.
From opening statements, the former drug lord’s defense team put a spotlight on the rampant government corruption they alleged facilitated their client’s drug trafficking activities. Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the defense attorneys, alleged that former presidents Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto both took “hundreds of millions in bribes” from Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo.”
In addition, El Mayo's younger brother, Jesús “El Rey” Zambada García, testified during the trial that the Sinaloa Cartel had delivered $50 million in bribes to García Luna, which the former security chief flatly called a lie. Being in the pocket of high-level officials like the country's top cop is an integral part of how organizations like the Sinaloa Cartel operate successfully.
SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile
García Luna’s arrest now raises some interesting questions, including if and when former President Calderón knew of his top security official’s reportedly intimate links to not only the country’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, but its top drug lord. What’s more, it remains to be seen if others alleged throughout the course of El Chapo’s trial to have engaged in corruption, such as former President Peña Nieto, will face consequences for their suspected wrongdoing as well.
The arrest also further calls into question the government’s failed security strategy against Mexico’s drug trafficking groups. Not only was the strategy seriously flawed, but the latest arrest suggests that those charged with leading the fight were actually in bed with those they were supposedly targeting.
Finally, the arrest makes clear that only in the United States can corrupt Mexican officials face justice for working hand-in-hand with criminal organizations. In Mexico, they are free to work as they please, no matter the costs.