The U.S. Unveils Charges Against Genaro García Luna, Once Mexico’s Drug War Enforcer
The United States sentenced the powerful drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to life in prison in July, and prosecutors are now seeking to punish his vast network of collaborators. On December 10, federal law enforcement agents arrested Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s Secretary of Public Security from 2006 to 2012, in Dallas, Texas on charges of accepting bribes from Guzmán’s notorious Sinaloa Cartel. García Luna denies all allegations of breaking the law.
On December 11, the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York unsealed an indictment against García Luna. The United States government accuses him of conspiracy to traffic cocaine and lying about his criminal record on his application for American citizenship in 2018. García Luna is one of the most prominent and highest-ranking Mexican government officials to ever be indicted by the United States for drug trafficking.
Since 2006, tens of thousands of people in Mexico have died as the military fights violent cartels to restore law and order in the country. During the administration of Felipe Calderón, the first Mexican President to deploy soldiers to arrest drug traffickers, García Luna helped orchestrate the Mexican government’s anti-cartel campaign. His position was roughy equivalent to the Interior Minister in many countries, a Cabinet-level official who oversees the police force and prison system.
As Mexico’s most senior law enforcement officer, García Luna traveled frequently to Washington, D.C. to coordinate anti-drug polices with the White House and lobby Congress for security assistance. While he was in office, García Luna was well-known for his efforts to combat police corruption.
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The Case Against García Luna
Despite his respectable reputation, García Luna attracted suspicion in Mexico with his wealth and mansions. As early as 2010, a Mexican journalist alleged that he accepted bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. At the time, the allegations against him failed to gain traction. In 2012, García Luna moved to Florida with a multi-million dollar fortune. He has since been a permanent resident of the United States.
Prosecutors began to investigate García Luna earlier this year when Jesús Zambada, a former member of the Sinaloa Cartel, testified during the “El Chapo” trial that he had personally bribed García Luna twice. Zambada claims to have given García Luna a $3 million bribe while he was the leader of the Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005, and then a second $3 million bribe during his tenure as Secretary of Public Security. In exchange, García Luna allegedly protected the Sinaloa Cartel from law enforcement, provided “El Chapo” with information about rival drug traffickers and government investigations, and even helped facilitate the transportation of drugs through Mexico.
García Luna immediately dismissed Zambada’s allegations as “lies, defamation, and perjury,” but the United States considers them credible. Richard Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, says that García Luna allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to “operate with impunity in Mexico” and flood America with cocaine when he controlled the Federal Police. “Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes,” Donoghue stated on December 10, referring to the arrest of García Luna.
In the upcoming weeks, García Luna will be sent to New York for trial. If a jury finds him guilty, he will receive a minimum sentence of ten years in prison. Federal prosecutors have sought to deny him bail for fear that he might flee to Mexico.
[UPDATE: On January 3, Genaro García Luna entered a plea of “not guilty” to all charges against him. However, four days later, he authorized his lawyers to open negotiations with the Justice Department for a plea bargain. If those negotiations succeed, García Luna would plead guilty, avoid a trial, and receive a reduced sentence.]