Ex-Mexican security chief denies cartel bribery charges

Genaro García Luna is a former Mexican head of security that served from 2006 to 2012.

Ex-Mexican security chief denies cartel bribery charges
Marco Ugarte / Associated Press

The backstory: Genaro García Luna is a former Mexican head of security that served from 2006 to 2012. Now, he's facing allegations of accepting millions of dollars in bribes for helping the infamous Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, with drug trafficking. Prosecutors said that, with García Luna's protection, the cartel could smuggle large quantities of drugs into the US and avoid getting arrested. García Luna faces five charges that could carry sentences from a decade to life in prison if he's found guilty.

More recently: The allegations came to light during El Chapo's trial in 2019. But, ProPublica reported that evidence of García Luna's association with the Sinaloa cartel goes back to 2012 while he was still in office. Even so, prosecutors denied the evidence presented to them over the years, saying it wasn't enough to move forward with a case. Then, in 2019, a witness testified during El Chapo's trial about paying off García Luna. After that, New York prosecutors started building the case that led to Garcia Luna's arrest in December of that year.

The development: García Luna's trial began on Monday in Brooklyn, where he denied all accusations against him. His attorneys argued there's not enough evidence to connect him to the charges and that the cartel members cooperating with the government are only trying to reduce their sentences and get revenge against a government official they think is responsible for their capture. The trial is drawing eyes in Mexico and the States as it could expose details about Mexico’s war on drugs, which has resulted in over 360,000 deaths since 2006, and the role of US authorities in Garcia Luna's alleged activities.

Key comments:

"The defendant took millions of dollars of bribes again, again and again," said Assistant US Attorney Philip Pilmar in opening arguments in a Brooklyn federal court. "He is a man who betrayed his country and ours."

"We knew Chapo was dirty," said Rodolfo Soriano Núñez, a sociologist and former professor who studies the use of military force in Mexico, referring to the importance of García Luna's trial. "But Chapo is nothing but a peasant from rural Sinaloa. It has the potential to unveil one of the key aspects of the so-called war on drugs here in Mexico, which is that of the ties, the links, the connection between political power and the so-called drug gangs."

"Their case is based on rumors and speculation, the testimony of killers and kidnappers and some of the worst criminals in the world," said Cesar de Castro, García Luna's lawyer, to the jurors in opening statements on Monday. "This is a million-dollar industry. What better revenge against your common enemy but to bury the man who led the war against the cartel?"