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Mexico’s Former Public Security Chief Convicted in US Drug Case

By Mahir Ahmed, MA Global Media and Communications

Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s public security minister, was recently found guilty of taking millions of dollars from Mexico’s biggest crime group, the Sinaloa cartel.

García Luna is one of the highest-ranking Mexican officials ever accused of ties to drug trafficking. In 2001, he led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency and was public security minister from 2006 to 2012. During his tenure, he had worked closely with U.S. counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies as part of former President Felipe Calderon’s crackdown on cartels. 

“Luna received an award from the CIA for his ‘friendship, collaboration, and support,’ which makes his role in this corruption case all the more concerning.”

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn said Genaro García Luna had accepted ‘millions of dollars’ in bribes from the cartel leader Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in exchange for protection from arrest, safe passage for drug shipments and tip-offs about forthcoming law enforcement operations. Luna received an award from the CIA for his ‘friendship, collaboration, and support,’ which makes his role in this corruption case all the more concerning. 

Saritha Komatireddy, an American prosecutor, told jurors, ‘These leaders paid the defendant bribes for protection – and they got what they paid for,’ Komatireddy said in her closing argument, referring to Guzman and two other top-ranking Sinaloa cartel figures.

This court case has cast doubt on the U.S.’s role in the War on Drugs. A new report from the U.S. Institute of Peace claims that Mexican elites ‘captured’ the benefit of U.S. security assistance while drug trafficking continued to take a toll on both Mexican and U.S. civilian lives. 

Courtroom sketch of Genaro García Luna on Jan. 23 at his trial (Credit: Jane Rosenberg, Reuters).

In the press release that followed García Luna’s guilty verdict, current DEA administrator, ​​Anne Milgram portrayed the conviction as a pivotal victory in the drug war. 

‘This case affirms DEA’s dedication to target and bring to justice those that enable the Sinaloa criminal drug cartel to flood the U.S. with deadly drugs that are killing Americans at unprecedented rates,’ Milgram said in a recent statement.

However, the U.S. government’s ability to continue with the War on Drugs has proven to be problematic. Security analyst Alejandro Hope suggested that ‘[García Luna] had a very close relationship for many years with U.S. intelligence. If he did what they say he did, that is a harsh sentence on all the verification mechanisms of U.S. intelligence.’ The U.S. approach of funnelling military aid to top Mexican officials in the hopes of stopping drug trafficking has largely been seen as a strategic failure. 

García Luna’s lawyers had argued the prosecutors relied on inconsistent narratives from convicted violent criminals, implicating him to get revenge on the man who arrested them. In a bid to lower their U.S. prison sentences, Cesar de Castro, a defence lawyer, portrayed García Luna as a hardworking family man and said his accusers had ‘incredible motives to lie.’ Luna maintains his innocence despite the corruption charges. 

Featured Photo Caption: Genaro Garcia Luna served as Mexico’s top public safety official from 2006 to 2012 (Credit: Tomas Bravo, Reuters).

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