García Luna or the US DEA: Who Will Be Sentenced ?

The jury’s verdict in Brooklyn on the charges against Genaro García Luna will define the future of the U.S.-Mexico drug policy relationship.

If evidence presented next week by Deputy Chief of Appeals at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York Saritha Komatireddy does not strengthen their case against him, the former official who was responsible for public security during Felipe Calderón’s government could walk free.

Then the United States Drug Enforcement Agency would face a political trial of seismic proportions for having accused a highly politically relevant individual without sufficient evidence. If this indictment turns into a fiasco, what legitimacy would the U.S. DEA have in the future for negotiating — for instance — with Mexican authorities?

It is not only Mexico’s former Secretary of Public Security Genero García Luna in the hot seat; the U.S. DEA is also being judged — at least politically — in this trial.

The former Mexican official’s defense, led by attorney César de Castro, has taken great pains to show that testimony presented by the prosecution against his client consists of lies.

In his version, all the witnesses, including Tirso Martinez, “The Soccer Player;” Oscar Nava Valencia, “The Wolf;” Harold Poveda, “The Rabbit;” Edgar Veytia, “The Devil;” and Sergio Villarreal, “The Big Guy,” would like to please the prosecution in exchange for favorable treatment. In addition to this shadow of doubt, most of the statements presented will be hearsay — offering no evidence, but only verbal corroboration.

Looking like a criminal is not enough to obtain a conviction. The best example of this occurred in late 2018, during the trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, also presided over by Judge Brian M. Cogan.

Journalist Jesús Esquivel reminds us that in a trial reminiscent of this trial of Genaro García Luna, the Brooklyn prosecution brought to the stand some 20 witnesses who directly or indirectly accused Chapo Guzmán of having conspired to traffic drugs. Yet, it was not until the prosecution presented a recording of the defendant’s voice negotiating with a representative of the Colombian guerrillas about a drug shipment that the jury was fully convinced of Chapo’s guilt.

Does prosecutor Komatireddy have equally compelling evidence for the García Luna case this time around? That is the question which will remain unanswered until next week.

It has been reported to the press that the prosecution will present final testimony next Monday and that it will conclusively lead to an indictment. It is also claimed that Judge Cogan will receive sufficient documentary evidence for the jury to find the former Mexican official guilty.

Three names are being speculated on as possible witnesses: Jesús Zambada Garcia, Iván Reyes Arzate and Edgar Valdéschapo Guzmán Villarreal.

During the trial of Chapo Guzmán, Jesús Zambada [“The King”] testified that he directly bribed Garcia Luna on two occasions, the first for $5 million and the second for $3 million. This testimony would differ from the one previously presented by the prosecution: It refers to a direct act of bribery.

The testimony of Iván Reyes Arzate would be more interesting, because he is an official who collaborated under the direct orders of García Luna and therefore could have been a witness of more than one criminal act committed by his boss.

The third possible witness is Edgar Valdés Villarreal, alias “La Barbie,” who in 2010 sent a letter to the media accusing García Luna, among other public servants, of having given money to the accused [Chapo Guzmán]. That letter concluded with a phrase that could be heard again next week in the Brooklyn courtroom: “I may have done what I did, but they, the public officials … are also part of the criminal structure of this country (Mexico).”

In the same letter, Valdés Villarreal claims that García Luna had allegedly received bribes since 2002, when he was head of [Mexico’s] Federal Investigation Agency. He also confirmed that former President Felipe Calderón had that same information four years later when he named García Luna secretary of public security.

La Barbie’s statement might be accompanied by video evidence showing complicity between the AFI and the Sinaloa cartel in the bloodbath that occurred in May 2005 in the city of Acapulco: A Zetas operator named Miguel Vizcarra was detained by agents under the orders of García Luna who, in turn, handed him over to Valdés Villarreal so that criminal could kill him on camera.

Which one of these three will be the mystery witness who will take the stand in a couple of days? There are no more clues. It is also possible that it could be someone else.

Although statements by Zambada, Arzate and Valdes Villarreal could strengthen accusations already presented in the Brooklyn court, none of them offer a piece of evidence — rather than testimony — as compelling as the recording that ended up sinking Chapo Guzmán in 2018.

It remains a possibility that the prosecution has a recording capable of confirming, beyond a shadow of a doubt, García Luna’s involvement with organized crime. Apparently Arturo Beltrán Leyva was known for recording all the conversations he participated in.

If it were true that the drug lord and the former police officer had several personal conversations, it could be that Beltrán kept a record of the meetings; therefore, it would not be unreasonable that this is the definitive proof saved for last by the prosecution.

In any case, we will soon know who will be sentenced: the United States DEA or Genaro García Luna.

About this publication

About Patricia Simoni 180 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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