Mexico’s former security chief goes on trial in US drug case

NEW YORK (AP) — Shielded by anonymity and additional safety, jurors received their first look Monday at a uncommon U.S. trial of a former cabinet-level Mexican official charged with taking bribes to aid drug traffickers he was speculated to be neutralizing.

After blowing a kiss to his spouse and daughters within the courtroom gallery, Genaro García Luna, who as soon as was Mexico’s prime safety official, watched with little outward response as opening statements started. His case folds in Mexico’s politics, its huge and violent drug commerce, uncomfortable connections between the 2, and delicate U.S.-Mexico relations about combating medicine and corruption.

García Luna is accused of accepting briefcases full of money — tens of millions of {dollars}, in all — to let the infamous Sinaloa cartel function with impunity because it despatched tons of cocaine to the U.S.

“The one that’s speculated to be in command of combating the Sinaloa cartel was really its most valued asset … and together with his assist, the cartel made tens of millions,” Assistant U.S. Lawyer Philip Pilmar advised jurors. He known as García Luna “a person who betrayed each international locations — his and ours.”

He stated that whereas García Luna portrayed himself to each international locations as a drug enforcement hero, he noticed to it that the cartel received data on investigations, clean passage for its cocaine by police checkpoints and police escorts, and typically even badges for cartel members. Officers hand-delivered drug shipments from airports and acted as mercenaries to kill folks the cartels needed gone, Pilmar stated.

García Luna has stated it’s “false, defamatory and perjury to say that I’ve ever obtained any materials items from any particular person, police officer or felony group.”

His lead lawyer, César de Castro, advised jurors that the federal government’s case rested on “rumors, hypothesis and the phrases of a few of the greatest criminals on the earth” — cartel members set to testify in opposition to him.

“No cash, no photographs, no video, no texts, no emails, no recordings, no paperwork — no credible, plausible proof that Genaro García Luna helped the cartel,” the lawyer stated in his opening assertion. He described the case as “a really public and offended show” by a U.S. authorities that’s forsaking a onetime drug-fighting associate.

De Castro argued that the cartel members who’re set to take the stand, after pleading responsible and agreeing to cooperate with the federal government, are simply making an attempt to minimize their sentences and precise revenge on a authorities official they see as accountable for their apprehension.

“Do not let the cartels play you,” he advised jurors.

García Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigation Company from 2001 to 2005, then served as secretary of public safety to then-President Felipe Calderon from 2006 to 2012.

As public security chief, García Luna was seen as the purpose man in Calderon’s bloody warfare on cartels and as a key ally in a U.S. initiative that began in former President George W. Bush’s administration and supplied Mexico’s police with tools, expertise and coaching to attempt to stanch the movement of medicine throughout the border. Photographs proven in courtroom depict García Luna with former U.S. President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Sen. John McCain and different high-ranking officers.

However García Luna additionally was dogged for years by allegations that he had ties to drug traffickers.

Then, throughout former Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s trial in New York, a former cartel member testified in 2018 that he personally delivered no less than $6 million in payoffs to García Luna, and that cartel members had agreed to pool as much as $50 million to bribe him.

García Luna, who moved to Miami after leaving his authorities publish, was arrested in 2019 in Texas and has since been held with out bail in a federal lockup. He has pleaded not guilty to expenses of drug trafficking and fascinating in a unbroken felony enterprise. The 54-year-old may face a long time in jail if convicted.

Present Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a leftist, has welcomed the trial, which may highlight corruption on a conservative predecessor’s watch. He additionally has pointedly suggested that Washington investigate its personal regulation enforcement officers who labored with García Luna.

Mexico has stated prior to now that its officers ought to be tried at residence if accused of corruption. The U.S. was asked in 2020 to extradite García Luna to face expenses of unlawful enrichment, however the Mexican authorities hasn’t exerted the identical strain because it did to truncate a U.S. prosecution of a former Mexican defense secretary accused of taking bribes to guard the H-2 cartel. He was returned to Mexico in 2020 and quickly cleared. On the time, the international secretary solid García Luna’s case in a unique mild, noting that he had been dwelling within the U.S.

García Luna is being tried in the identical Brooklyn federal courthouse the place Guzman was convicted of operating a sprawling worldwide drug-smuggling operation for many years.

Like Guzman, García Luna is facing jurors whose names are kept secret. Additionally they are escorted to and from the courthouse by deputy U.S. marshals and sequestered from the general public whereas inside.

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