Was cop who hunted El Chapo on his payroll? Mexico opens probe

Justin Villamil and Lorena Rios

Mexican authorities are investigating the former top official in the nation’s war on drugs for allegedly taking millions of dollars from the Sinaloa drug cartel run by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that two investigations will look into the conduct of Genaro Garcia Luna, the former head of the country’s equivalent of the FBI.

The move follows Garcia Luna’s indictment in a New York court this week on charges that the cartel shipped tons of cocaine into the U.S. while enjoying his protection. Mexico’s attorney general’s office will investigate the alleged drug crime, while the Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera, which looks into financial crimes, will look into the flow of money, Lopez Obrador said.

In this Oct. 8, 2010 file photo, Mexico's Secretary of Public Safety Genaro Garcia Luna attends a press conference. Garcia Luna, 51, who left the security post nearly a decade ago, was charged in federal court in New York with three counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of making false statements on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.

“We will help them in the investigation in any way we can,” said Lopez Obrador during a Wednesday morning press conference.

Garcia Luna, 51, served as the head of the Mexican Federal Investigation Agency from 2001 to 2005, and was Secretary of Public Security from 2006-2012 during the administration of Felipe Calderon.

Both roles put him at the forefront of the country’s battle with traffickers. Calderon’s government declared a war on the cartels, in a controversial policy that led to a rise in violence.

Garcia Luna was arrested in Dallas on Tuesday. Calderon said in a statement posted on Twitter that he had been completely unaware of any of Garcia Luna’s alleged actions.

Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York allege that even as Garcia Luna publicly led the charge against drug crimes, he was secretly taking millions of dollars in bribes from the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Mexico’s president has been criticized for his less confrontational approach to dealing with drug traffickers, even as the murder rate rises and entire cities are in the grip of organized crime.

The president has championed a strategy of “hugs, not bullets,” and his signature security innovation has been to create a new civilian police force called the national guard. In practice, many guardsmen have spent their time trying to stop undocumented migrants targeted by U.S. President Donald Trump, despite several high-profile drug killings.

While Lopez Obrador has criticized a past culture of impunity, he has been reluctant to open investigations into previous governments. Asked whether he would open an investigation into the Calderon administration, he said he wouldn’t engage in political persecution of former officials.

Lopez Obrador won a landslide victory last year, and pledged to cut insecurity and corruption. His government has taken on a few select targets, including a financial investigation into former Supreme Court Justice Eduardo Medina Mora and former head of the state oil company, Emilio Lozoya. Still, a wider probe remains uncertain.

“I can’t condemn anyone, we don’t hate,” Lopez Obrador said. “We will not use the government to persecute anyone.”