By RICARDO CASTILLO
Let’s not misinterpret facts: For Mexicans, the man who will be on trial in the United States for providing legal protection to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel will not be former Mexican Public Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, but rather his boss, the man who appointed him and protected him in that post from 2006 to 2012, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
García Luna was arrested by U.S. Marshalls last Dec. 10 on charges of receiving “millions” in bribes for giving protection to organized crime groups, principally to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel and lifetime-sentenced drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
And this is all contingent on there being a trial, because if García Luna opts for protected witness status, then it’ll all be a different story. But if he pleads innocent to all charges, there will be a trial.
Nevertheless, for Calderón, here in Mexico, the trial is already on. No doubt, it seems like a déjà vu of the past 12 years in terms of the long list of accusations levied against the former president, who even now claims he’s innocent.
The situation is rooted in an ongoing tiff between Calderón and current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) — definitely Calderón’s Number One sworn enemy, who back in 2006, after losing the presidential election by a nose called him “an election thief” and other niceties, and who, while Calderón was in office for six years, mentioned him as “the spurious president,” literally on a daily basis.
Nowadays, however, AMLO is ricocheting between opinions regarding how his administration would react if Calderón turned out to be the head of the alleged mob headed by García Luna, which is now being investigated for ramifications.
A week ago, AMLO said that if Calderón “turns out to be implicated, there will be no way to defend him.” But on Wednesday, Dec. 18, AMLO said that he “will not open up any investigation against former presidents.”
Beyond AMLO, at the Chamber of Deputies, majority leader (Morena) Mario Delgado said that he believes that Calderón is guilty of “unleashing a spiral of violence and crime” on the country because he was part of the gang and used Genaro García Luna as his front.
In 2007, Calderón declared “a war against crime” in Mexico, literally pulling the Army and Navy out of the barracks to do police work. The soldiers used military tactics to attack criminal gangs, many of which were splintered but began new crime groups such as the Zetas, that wreaked havoc among civilian populations in the Texas border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León and Coahuila.
“Calderón used the war on crime as a detractor so that the nation would forget that he had stolen the 2006 election, and that turned out to be a high price to pay for the country,” said Delgado in a recent press conference.
“The size of the inertia” Delgado said, led to a “spiral of violence and criminality that was unleashed by President Calderón, which still continues to our day.” Delgado alleged that this was done because he was part of a criminal group, this meaning that he offered protection through García Luna because Calderón was part of Chapo Guzmán’s Sinaloa Drug Cartel. “If the protection was promoted from the presidency,” Delgado claimed, “it is obvious that the strategy was not diverted and was picked up by the next Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto.”
It does not come as any surprise to hear AMLO, National Regeneration Movement (Morena) leaders and Delgado repeating what they claimed on their way to political victory in 2018.
But what is surprising is the deafening silence from the alleged culprit himself, who has trenched up in his Twitter account to deny all accusations.
“About the information regarding the arrest of engineer García Luna,” Calderón wrote,”I want to make it clear that I was totally unaware of the accusations being made against him. I hope for a fair trial, and if the accusations against him are confirmed, to have the law stand. If they charges are true, they would also represent a grave breach of the trust I deposited in him.”
In several other tweets, Calderón repeated his claim that he was unaware of any links between his security secretary what was known in those days as the Cartel of the Pacific, now the Sinaloa Cartel.
Muckraking journalist Álvaro Delgado of the weekly political magazine Proceso clashed directly with the former president, claiming in a publication this very week:
“Felipe Calderón was informed not just of the complicity of the almighty Genaro García Luna with Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, also the favorite capo of Vicente Fox, but he himself sought to negotiate with the drug cartels to stop the war with which he wanted to gain legitimacy that Mexican (voters) denied him in (the election) 2006.”
All of this are just conjectures of a preview of what could be in store for Calderón. Nevertheless, a Mexican lawyer, Netzai Sandoval Ballesteros, filed a real accusation before The Hague International Court accusing Calderón and Guzmán of unleashing a brutal war against other cartels, which led to the quagmire the nation is undergoing today. This charge has not progressed, perhaps for lack of bona fide evidence.
And as the García Luna arrest engulfs Calderón, he and his wife, Margarita Zavala, are busy with the finishing touches of what they hope will be a new and competitive political party called México Libre. Thus far, they have completed the 200 public assemblies required by the National Electoral Institute (INE) and hope and expect that they will have their new party by April. The objective is to attract National Action Party (PAN) members and to launch the candidacy for president of Zavala.
Nevertheless, the arrest of García Luna fell like a shower of giant hail pebbles on top of Calderón, who can, for now, count on the fact that his worst enemy, AMLO, will not turn against him.