Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Photo: Flickr


Edgar Veytia, former attorney general of Mexico’s Pacific coastal state of Nayarit, testified on Tuesday, Feb. 7, in a New York federal court that former Mexican President Felipe Calderón allegedly instructed government officials under his administration to support the Sinaloa Cartel as it battled other rival criminal organizations.

Veytia’s testimony was part of the ongoing trial of former Secretary of Public Security Genaro García Luna, who is facing charges of purportedly taking bribes from drug lords.

The former Nayarit attorney general was himself sentenced in the same New York federal court in 2019 — a sentence of 20 years in prison — for drug trafficking.

Calderón quickly dismissed the allegations as hearsay.

“I categorically deny the absurd statements reported by the press, which was made today by the witness Veytia,” Calderón wrote on his official Twitter account. “What he said about me is an absolute lie. I never negotiated or made a pact with criminals.”

Calderón’s dismissal of Veytia’s charge as hearsay, however, has some weight to it: The prosecution so far has almost relied exclusively on testimony from former drug traffickers and government officials — majority of whom are serving their own sentences for drug trafficking and corruption — with little other evidence to support the case against García Luna so far. In fact, Veytia’s testimony about Calderón was based on events he did not witness himself.

Veytia said “he had been told” that Calderón ordered officials under his watch to aid the Sinaloa Cartel — then under the leadership of convicted Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — in battling rival cartels.

From the stand, Veytia testified to the jury that in 2011, his boss, the governor of the state of Nayarit, allegedly narrated that Calderón and García Luna had instructed him to support Guzmán, in a war against his rival, Arturo Beltrán Leyva.

“He had just gotten back from an important meeting with Calderón and García Luna in Mexico City,” Veytia said of his boss. Veytia added that the governor purportedly told him that Calderón and García Luna had ordered “to protect Chapo’s people, not Beltrán Leyva’s.”

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), in his daily press conference on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 8, was quick to jump on the allegation by Veytia against Calderón, saying that “everything indicates that during the Felipe Calderón administration, some criminals were protected to attack others.”

“Well, we have to wait. I insist on the conclusion of the whole process. It is very important that the issue be dealt with, that it not be hidden. Because this is very abnormal, it is not possible that the (former) secretary of public security is being tried for protecting criminals,” AMLO said. “But also in a six-year term in which war was declared on drug gangs, everything indicates that some were protected to attack others. It’s something incredible, that this goes beyond the plot of a Netflix series that we’re looking at.”

López Obrador has repeatedly targeted Calderón, accusing the former president of corruption, as well as “exacerbating violence” and “abetting criminal gangs” during Calderón’s aggressive and contentious war against drugs that ran from 2006 to 2012.

Political commentator F. Bartolome, in his Wednesday column for Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, wrote that “López Obrador must be very happy today because yesterday (Tuesday), finally, the name of Felipe Calderón came out in the trial against Genaro García Luna.”

“All the presidential speech against his predecessor, obviously, is crowned with the mention in the New York court. It doesn’t matter if what was said is true, lie, hearsay or a dream. AMLO already has a piñata for the remainder of his six-year term — Calderón,” wrote Bartolome. “And Calderón will have to worry even more when the video in which he appears very restrained greeting the mother of ‘El Chapo’ comes to light. Or was it not Calderón, but López Obrador?”

García Luna’s trial is expected to last another month or so, until March.

A New York Times article on Tuesday made mention of “the Mexican government’s official Twitter account” that “published a nearly five-minute video clip layered with dramatic music, narration and imagery to publicize the highlights of the trial so far” and that “the slickly produced clip featured photos of Mr. García Luna with Mexican and American officials intertwined with packages of seized drugs.”

“As the start of the trial loomed late last year, Mr. López Obrador began speaking regularly about the charges against Mr. García Luna while propping up his government as a counter to the graft that has plagued previous administrations,” said the New York Times report by Alan Feuer and Maria Abi-Habib.

“In our government there are no officials like García Luna, human rights violations are not permitted, the authorities are not accomplices,” AMLO said last November. “There exists no agreement with any organized crime group.”

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