Cartel trial of former Mexican security chief Genaro García Luna implicates

The highest-profile trial in history against a former Mexican official is about to begin in the United States. Three years after being arrested, Genaro García Luna was finally seated in the dock in the Eastern District Court of New York – the same courtroom where Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2019.

The secretary of public security during the administration of right-wing former Mexican president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) will have to answer for three charges of cocaine trafficking, organized crime and making false statements. If found guilty, the former Mexican security chief will face a minimum of 10 years in jail – or, if prosecutors get their way, life behind bars.

The District Attorney’s Office is accusing García Luna – one of the most controversial and feared Mexican politicians – of collaborating with the Sinaloa Cartel for almost two decades. His fate is now in the hands of an anonymous jury and Judge Brian Cogan – the same man who sentenced El Chapo. The case will be decided in a Brooklyn courtroom, but it threatens to unleash a political storm more than 2,000 miles away, on the other side of the border.

The Court for the Eastern District of New York had dozens of hearings on Tuesday, including trials against gang members, multi-million dollar fraudsters… and even a bribery scandal at FIFA.

“Which judgement? The one with the terrorist?” a veteran employee of the court asked aloud, while reviewing the busy schedule of the judges. “Oh, sure! The policeman from Mexico,” he chuckled, suddenly remembering. “It’s the most important case we have these days,” he told EL PAÍS.

García Luna doesn’t ring much of a bell in Brooklyn – but the trial against the former official has not gone unnoticed. Some US media refer to him as Mexico’s “top cop.” Interest in the case skyrockets when his alleged link with El Chapo is mentioned, especially after the recent capture of Ovidio Guzmán – El Chapo’s son – in the state of Sinaloa. Outside the courthouse, more and more Mexican and Latin American reporters are gathering each day.

Genaro García Luna, center, depicted during a hearing inside the court, on February 27, 2020.
Genaro García Luna, center, depicted during a hearing inside the court, on February 27, 2020.JANE ROSENBERG (Reuters)

García Luna – a man who experienced a meteoric rise when Calderón declared a war against the drug cartels in 2006 – will not be seen wearing a prison uniform during his trial. This was a request made by his lawyers. Judge Cogan will allow him to wear navy blue suits.

The defense attorneys are convinced that they will be able to prove their client’s innocence – they have claimed that the DA has no solid evidence against him. In the US legal system – which favors obtaining plea bargains in exchange for reduced sentences – the mere decision to go to trial is a show of confidence.

According to previous hearings, the prosecution plans to call about 20 witnesses to the stand. García Luna’s lawyers have tried to have these testimonies discarded, alleging that there is a conflict of interest. They claim that many of the incarcerated former officials and drug traffickers who wish to testify are willing to say anything, as…

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