Corruption · Crime and Violence · Transparency & accountability

García Luna faces drug trafficking conspiracy charges in the U.S.

02/15/2023 (written by abrizuela) – Mexico’s former Secretary of Public Security under Felipe Calderón administration (2006-2012) is facing charges in the United States. He is accused of colluding with the Sinaloa Cartel, accepting millions of dollars of bribes in exchange for the cartel’s ability to operate with impunity when smuggling tons of cocaine across the border (El País). García Luna faces charges for drug trafficking conspiracy, membership in a criminal organization, and making false statements to U.S. authorities during his application for U.S. citizenship in 2018. (BBC Mundo) The Brooklyn federal courthouse where García Luna is being tried is also where Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement as leader of  the Sinaloa Cartel. (El País) Since his arrest in 2019 in Texas, García Luna has been in federal custody and held without bail, if convicted he could face decades in prison. (El País)

García Luna’s trial makes history as the highest ranking-former Mexican official that has been tried in the U.S. for drug trafficking, exposing the close ties between Mexican politicians and drug cartels. García Luna began his career in the Mexican government in 1989 when he was recruited as a researcher for the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (Center of Investigation and National Security), otherwise known as Cisen. During his time working for Cisen, he monitored the activity of guerrilla groups in Mexico, specializing in combating kidnapping gangs. From there, García Luna worked for the Federal Preventive Police and the Federal Investigation Agency, both of which are no longer in operation. García Luna rose to the national stage in 2006 when he was appointed as the Secretary of Public Security by former president Felipe Calderón. (BBC Mundo)

During his time as the Secretary of Public Security, García Luna spearheaded Calderón’s war on drugs, which by some estimates left 250,000 dead. (BBC Mundo) García Luna held a tight rein over Mexico’s Federal Police as he attempted to eradicate organized crime and re-structure policing in Mexico. (Washington Post) Access to police intelligence and operations were monopolized by García Luna in what was characterized as an attempt to avoid corruption. García Luna only entrusted himself with essential information, making him the most powerful man in the police force. (Washington Post) García Luna’s reputation is tainted by the bloody outcome of the war against drugs as many experts question the effectiveness of the aggressive fight against drug trafficking. (BBC Mundo)

So far, the prosecutor’s office has presented 25 witnesses, with the majority being former drug traffickers, along with corrupt former Mexican officials. (The San Diego Tribune) The first witness that testified against García Luna on January 23 was Sergio “El Grande” Villarreal Barragán, a former police officer-turned member of the Sinaloa cartel who was an integral actor in the criminal cell of the Beltrán Levya brothers. (Mazaltán Weekly) Villarreal Barragán claimed cartel leaders believed García Luna was “the best investment they had” and described him picking up duffel bags of cash located in a Mexico City safe house. García Luna was also directly accused of receiving multimillion-dollar bribes by Israel Ávila, former frontman for the Sinaloa cartel. Ávila claims the biggest bribe he saw given to García Luna was $5 million. In his detailed testimony, Ávila described how the Sinaloa Cartel managed their money through Excel worksheets, accounting for everything from drug shipments to bribes. Ávila claimed García Luna’s codename on the Excel spreadsheet was “El Tartamudo,” stutterer,  or “El Metralleta,” machine gun, nicknames mocking his stutter. Aside from the large $5 million bribe, Ávila testified that El Rey Zambada, the top lieutenant of the Sinaloa cartel, paid García Luna other large bribes of $3 million, $1 million, $1.8 million, and other various amounts. In exchange for these bribes, the cartel moved drugs throughout the country freely, and even received government protection as the federal police alerted cartels before drug raids. (El País)

El País reported that Raúl Arellano, a former Mexican police officer, was called to testify for the prosecution on January 31, providing insight into how the cartel trafficked drugs through Mexico City International Airport. Arellano described federal police unloading drugs from planes and using coded messages to communicate with each other. According to Arellano, all police officers on duty at the airport received a coded order by radio. Arellano was confused by these orders when starting his work at the airport in 2007, and soon discovered that they were related to the arrival of drugs and money that coincided with the arrival of flights from Central America and the departure of flights to the US and even sometimes Europe. (El Financiero) The “special group” of officers involved in transferring the drugs and money reportedly arrived late or were frequently absent, and Arellano claimed “they bragged very openly”, flaunting gold-plated pistol grips and sports cars that would be impossible to afford on a policeman’s salary. (El País) García Luna’s defense claims the accusations against the former official are merely a part of the cartels’ revenge, critiquing the testimonies of the ex-criminals for their lack of concrete evidence such as photos or emails. (Noticias Telemundo)

García Luna’s betrayal is felt well beyond Mexico as he was an important ally in the U.S anti-drug-trafficking initiative, with photos in court showing him alongside high-ranking US officials like former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (El País) Furthermore, there is an enormous interest in investigating if other former Mexican government officials will be implicated during the course of the trial. (BBC Mundo) The public is especially looking towards Luna García’s previous boss, former President Calderón, who has denied having any knowledge of García Luna’s connection to drug trafficking (BBC Mundo). The current President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is welcoming the trial as it publicly exposes the corruption that took place under the watch of his conservative predecessor.  López Obrador has repeatedly stressed the importance of the media closely covering the case to keep the public informed. Last month the president stated: “It is very important that all of this is known, that it be reported on, so that it does not happen again.” (The New York Times)


Elías, Camhaji. ”García Luna trial reveals how drugs flowed freely through Mexico City’s airport.” El País, 3 February, 2023.

“El caso por narcotráfico contra García Luna podría concluir la próxima semana” The San Diego Tribune. February 8, 2023.
Feuer, Kitroeff. “Juicio de Genaro García Luna en EE. UU.: se prevén testimonios inauditos.” The New York Times. January 16, 2023.

“Juicio de García Luna revela los códigos de la policía para traficar droga a EU.” El Financiero. February 1, 2023.
Krauze, Leon. “The trial of Mexico’s former security chief is about more than drugs.” The Washington Post. January 21, 2023.

“Quién es y de qué se acusa a Genaro García Luna, el más alto exfuncionario de México juzgado en Estados Unidos.” BBC News Mundo. January 17, 2023.
Rojas, Subizar. “Era una belleza’ ex narcos relatan en corte cómo se movía la droga en el aeropuerto de México cuando García Luna era secretario.” Noticias Telemundo. February 1, 2023.
Ugarte, Marco. “Mexico’s former safety chief goes on trial in US drug case.” El País. January 23, 2023.

“Who is Sergio Villarreal Barragán ‘El Grande’, one of the witnesses against García Luna.” The Mazatlán Weekly. January 19, 2023.

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