By MARK LORENZANA
Former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, in a statement on Tuesday, Feb. 21, said he “never negotiated with criminals,” evidently a response to the verdict delivered by a New York jury on Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s former security secretary, who was found guilty on five counts of criminal activity.
“I never negotiated or agreed with criminals. I never used the presidential inauguration to advocate for their interests. I did comply and enforce the Constitution and the law,” wrote Calderón on his official Twitter account, hours after Federal Court Judge Brian Cogan of Brooklyn announced the guilty verdict.
García Luna was found guilty Tuesday of helping the Sinaloa Cartel — then headed by convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán — smuggle more than 50 tons of cocaine into the United States. During the trial, which lasted for more than a month, several prosecution witnesses testified that García Luna received millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels. The former security secretary is scheduled to be sentenced on June 27, and could face up to life in prison.
García Luna is the most senior former Mexican official to be convicted in the United States on drug charges. He headed Calderón’s contentious and violent drug war from 2006 to 2012.
After assuming power in 2006, Calderón launched a military offensive against organized crime groups in Mexico. His war on drugs left more than 170,000 people dead, and human rights organizations have pointed out that there was evidence of abuse by the armed forces, but the decisions were justified by those from the highest levels of power, including García Luna.
In his statement on Tuesday, Calderón said that “I fought with all determination against crime with the law in hand, without giving truce or making any distinction between groups. I have been the president who has acted the most against organized crime.” He said that if given the chance he would do it again “because it is the right thing to do.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) immediately jumped on the guilty verdict, suggesting that García Luna turn witness.
“There is still the possibility that García Luna declares himself as a witness, and I would say as president of Mexico, for the good of the country, that he hopefully does so,” López Obrador said. “In exchange for turning witness, he should report on whether he received orders from both (Vicente) Fox and Calderón when he was secretary of security.”
Since Garcia Luna’s arrest, AMLO has often used the case to verbally attack political opponents, especially Calderón.
Mario Delgado, national leader of López Obrador’s leftist ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), went even further and declared on the afternoon of Tuesday that they will ask Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE) to remove the National Action Party (PAN) from its registry after García Luna’s guilty verdict.
Calderón was a member of the PAN for 30 years before quitting the party in November 2018.
“It has been proven that the PAN is a criminal organization more than a political one, and a criminal organization cannot continue to aspire to participate in politics and govern Mexicans,” said Delgado.
Morena deputies likewise demanded that Calderón be tried for alleged links to organized crime.
“To say it in boxing terms, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was knocked out on the canvas. The guilty ruling against Genaro García Luna leaves the former president as one of the biggest victims,” chimed in political commentator F. Bartolome of Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, in his Wednesday, Feb. 22 column.
“And there is no way for Calderón to wash his hands: García Luna was his super secretary and main operator of the security strategy in his government. Even if the then president, if possible, did not know about his secretary’s crimes, that does not allow him to distance himself from the collaborator whom he himself supported and exalted.”