- BBC News World
The statements of the most anticipated trial in Mexico after the one that ended three years ago with the life sentence of Joaquín “el Chapo” Guzmán began this Monday in New York.
Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Security of Mexico during the presidency of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), faces a process in the United States on charges of drug trafficking and for conspiring with the same Sinaloa cartel that he officially tried to make disappear during his years in office.
This Monday, these accusations came to flower in the courtroom directly from the mouth of the first witness to testify on behalf of the Prosecutor’s Office: Sergio Villarreal Barragán, aka the Great.
The drug trafficker, who joined organized crime after years as a police officer and who is now serving a prison sentence in the US, assured that he saw García Luna on several occasions to pay him bribes from the Sinaloa cartel that could have risen, in some months, to up to US$1.5 million.
The former official rejects all the charges against him.
His lawyer assured at the beginning of the trial that there are “no photos, no videos” or any other evidence, but that all the evidence is based on the testimonies of confessed criminals they might be looking for revenge who led the “war on drugs” in Mexico.
The prosecutor, for his part, reiterated in his initial allegation that the former official was an active member of the cartel and not a mere collaborator, that he took advantage of his power to allow the transfer of drugs to the US and that he accepted large quantities from this group. of money.
What did the Great One declare?
El Grande testified before the jury that “with the help of the government [mexicano]the cartel grew in terms of territory.”
But he was also very specific about how García Luna supposedly supported the group that Chapo led at the time. “It was a great help because we were able to grow and minimize our rivals.”
The witness testified that the person in charge of paying García Luna (whom other cartel leaders referred to as the Compa or the Stutterer) He was Arturo Beltrán, a partner in the Sinaloa cartel and later leader of the Beltrán Leyva cartel.
El Grande said he had been present at twenty of those economic transactions that, according to his words, “grew as the cartel grew and without that support it would have been practically impossible“.
The drug trafficker said that when he began working for the Leyva clan in 2001 -García Luna was then director of the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI)- the official was already on the cartel’s payroll and he continued to be paid until the death of Arturo Beltrán Leyva eight years later.
According to him, payments to García Luna between 2001 and 2004 amounted to between US$1 and 1.5 million per month for his support.
In exchange, the AFI supposedly ensured that they had a clear route for the cartel to transport their shipments.
The criminals received vans, uniforms and credentials that identified them as AFI agents and that allowed them to camouflage themselves and carry weapons, always according to the testimony of El Grande.
El Grande also pointed out that, during the following years, the defendant provided them with information on security operations, investigations against cartel members and data that could be useful to attack enemy groups.
Likewise, according to his testimony, García Luna facilitated the appointment and dismissal of agents in any part of Mexico at the request of drug traffickers.
“He helped us get rid of commanders and police chiefs in every square,” he said.
Who is the Great?
Villarreal Barragán was arrested in 2010 and extradited to the US two years later -when García Luna was still Secretary of Security-, where he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and where he is serving a reduced sentence.
The witness, who receives this nickname due to its two meters of heightmade a review of his career in organized crime during his statement on Monday.
He worked as a policeman, but ended up in collusion with the Juárez cartel and worked under the orders of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the Lord of the Skies.
Different conflicts later made him approach Arturo Beltrán Leyva, who “at that time was a partner of Chapo and Ismael ‘el Mayo’ Zambada” of the Sinaloa cartel.
After they fell out with El Chapo, El Grande continued to work for the Beltrán Leyva brothers as one of their cartel’s strongmen.
During those years, his role was to set up the drug trafficking routes to the north of Mexico, design the operations to attack the enemies and approach officials to deliver bribesas stated on Monday.
The Grande’s statement, which will continue this Tuesday, is the first of the witnesses that will pass through the Brooklyn Court stand, among whom are drug traffickers, former cartel associates and former politicians.
In the trial, which is expected to last up to eight weeks, García Luna is charged with three counts of drug conspiracy, one for belonging to a criminal organization and another for making false statements to US authorities.
García Luna, who is the highest-ranking former Mexican official to be tried in the US, could receive between 10 years and life in prison.
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