How Could the US Not Have Known? Genaro Garcia Luna's Conviction Is Not Justice For The People in Mexico

Genaro García Luna was found guilty of leading a criminal and drug trafficking organization.

Photo: Jane Rosenberg / EFE

The conviction of a Mexican drug czar was received with great fanfare on both sides of the Mexico-US border. Genaro Garcia Luna, the former security minister under Mexican President Felipe Calderon, was convicted in a New York court for taking millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel. It was also alleged that Genaro Garcia was instrumental in helping the Sinaloa cartel to move more than fifty tons of cocaine into the US

The amount of money being delivered to Genaro Garcia Luna by the drug traffickers, according to some witnesses, raked many peoples' senses raw. It has been widely publicized that he received more than $200 million from Sinaloa Carter. A witness testified that on two occasions, cartel members delivered $5 million nicely packed in briefcases—nothing but Benjamin Franklin bills. On another occasion, Garcia Luna stopped at a warehouse in Chiapas and picked up $14 million in cash.

Adding insult to injury, lawyers defending Genaro Garcia Luna put his wife on the witness stand. She boldly told the court that her family's millions of hers were the product of her family's hard work of hers.

The information revealed in the trial that took over a month disgusted and angered many people in Mexico and embarrassed the United States. It is difficult to fathom that the US intelligence officers working closely with Garcia Luna didn't know he was helping the Sinaloa Cartel.

Many viewed this conviction as justice being served to the people in Mexico. They praised the American justice system, hoping it would send a strong message to all corrupted Mexican officials.

Reuters reported today, Monday, February 27, that the United States is asking for Ovidio Guzman to be extradited. So he can face criminal charges in a US court. He is the son of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Two Mexican government sources confirmed the request.

The US bringing corrupted Mexican officials or drug cartel leaders to justice is great, but it is a pretty low bar of expectations. The United States should do and can do more. For starters, the US can do a better job stopping the flow of US arms going to Mexico's drug cartels. It is well-documented how these weapons have brought so much bloodshed in Mexico. It is estimated that “2.5 million guns from the US crossed the southern border in the last ten years.”

Genaro Garcia Luna served as security minister during President Calderon's tenure from 2006 to 2012. His conviction in New York is a blatant indictment of former president Calderon's leadership abilities. At the very least, it was a massive display of incompetence.

In 2006 when Felipe Calderon was newly elected, he was very receptive to Washington's demands. Calderon had barely defeated left-wing populist candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador by almost one percentage point. US President in 2006, President Bush seized on the opportunity of Calderon's vision of fighting cartels and other organized crime. Hence the “Merida Initiative” was structured and implemented. It was a partnership in which the US provided around $350 or $400 million a year in military aid to Mexico. The literature as to how this foreign policy initiative epically failed is thick. The number of people killed related to drugs grotesquely increased. Almost 10,000 Mexican people were killed just in 2009.

After Garcia Luna's conviction was known, former President Calderon made no apologies and told BBC News that he had done more than any president to take on organized crime. “I fought to build an authentic rule of law, without which there is no freedom, justice, or development,” he told the news organization.

It is very telling that not much information came up in the trial about how US intelligence folks worked with this corrupted man and were in the dark about this man's illegal activities. One might have assumed that based on the information that came up during this trial, Washington would be conducting congressional investigations as to what happened during these years that US law enforcement officials were working with a corrupt official.

After all, Garcia Luna worked closely with US counter-narcotics and intelligence agencies. He also met with top US officials, including then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder. How could the US agencies not have known?

Many, including current Mexican President Amador, are calling for an investigation of all those US law enforcement officials who worked closely with Garcia Luna. It is not beyond the possibility that Garcia Luna might have corrupted them. The Biden administration has yet to release a statement on this demand.

It is surreal that at one point, Genaro Garcia Luna was the good cop that everybody thought was saving Mexico. And now, he has been convicted of corruption and illicit enrichment. Many were skeptical about the charges. After all, this man was working closely with American intelligence agencies officials. He even got a CIA award from then-General Director David Petraeus.

If the US wants to help people in Mexico and other countries in Latin America, it must make a genuine effort to help these countries to build social and economic conditions. So people in Latin American countries can feel safe and find employment to support their families. Convicting corrupt Mexican officials and drug cartel leader is easy; Developing well-thought solutions to the drug trade and even solving the immigration problem will require strength.

Chamba Sánchez is a teacher who identifies with those who believe that activism is a crucial component of the teaching profession.

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