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García Luna Corruption Trial Off to Unspectacular Start

The most significant narco-corruption trial in the history of the U.S. and Mexico is off to a precariously thin start, with testimony of collusion with drug trafficking cartels by lower-level officials instead of the bombshell revelations about former Mexican presidents that had been expected, Vice reports. The trial in a Brooklyn federal court of Genaro García Luna, who oversaw Mexico’s federal police and prisons as a cabinet-level official under former president Felipe Calderón from 2006 to 2012, is expected to last eight weeks. The first week's testimony may not represent the most startling evidence that prosecutors will present. But, so far, no witnesses have directly implicated Calderón or Vincente Fox, the president García Luna served in the early 2000s as director of the Mexican equivalent of the FBI.

García Luna’s defense has told the jury there’s no hard evidence linking him to bribes, only “rumors, speculation, and the words of some of the biggest criminals in the world,” including several arrested and extradited during their client’s tenure atop Mexico’s security forces. The first of those witnesses was Sergio Villarreal Barragán, a hulking former cartel lieutenant nicknamed El Grande who served under Arturo Beltrán Leyva, leader of a Sinaloa Cartel faction called the Beltrán Leyva Organization. El Grande testified that he witnessed his boss deliver multi-million dollar bribes to García Luna and his deputies on dozens of occasions at a cartel safehouse in the southern part of Mexico City. The payments were made monthly, he said, starting around $1 million and growing over time as García Luna’s power and influence expanded within the Mexican government. After Mexico’s 2006 election, when Calderón replaced Fox as president, García Luna became the secretary of public security, responsible for policing the country’s highways, airports, and seaports — all crucial for drug trafficking routes bringing in cocaine from Colombia and moving the shipments north across the U.S. border. “We could go around freely, we could set up and take checkpoints wherever we wanted,” El Grande said. Even while serving under Calderón, the ex-cartel capo testified, García Luna still personally attended meetings with the head of the Beltrán Leyva family. “They would eat, they would chat and talk about problems that were coming up and these problems were solved,” El Grande said. García Luna also allegedly leaked DEA intelligence to the cartel.


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