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LibreOrganize 0.6.0 - Documentation

Calderón, García Luna, and the War Between Narcos

Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, right, and his security chief Genaro García Luna. Photo: AFP

As the bodies piled up and the blood continued to spill during former President Felipe Calderón’s so-called “war on narcos,” observers couldn’t help but notice that state security forces seemed to be targeting some organized crime groups over others. 

Even at the time, anyone who bothered to look at the evidence could hardly miss the Calderón government’s favoritism of the Sinaloa Cartel. How blatant did Caldrón’s de facto alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel become? Many observers starting calling Calderón’s drug push a war between narcos instead of one waged against them.

Now the narco-corruption trial of Genaro García Luna in the United States has brought to light the extent of that alliance. García Luna served as Calderón’s security secretary, a cabinet-level position, and operated as the architect of the ex-president’s security strategy. He came to be called, quite literally, Mexico’s “super cop.”


According to US prosecutors, this “super cop” received over $200 million in bribes from cartel operators like Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who testified he personally delivered $5 million to García Luna. These millions all came on top of $746 million dollars that Pablo Gómez, the chief of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit, now charges that García Luna stole from public funds.


In other words, people close to Calderón — like García Luna — got fabulously wealthy while Mexicans got destruction in return.


Sums up Mexican journalist Alejandro Páez Varela: “A country was subjected to a war, entire families were subjected to living in danger, thousands of people dead, mothers looking for their disappeared children’s whereabouts, over the want of money.”


Calderón’s war between narcos cost México more than a sense of peace, as Washington Post reporters Mary Beth Sheridan and Nick Miroff have noted. After López Obador’s victory in the 2018 presidential election, his transition team would end up “astonished to discover how much the US government quietly pulled levers in the country.”


Despite all this, coverage of García Luna’s trial inside México has been demonstrably poor, with outlets treating it more as spectacle than an indictment of Calderón’s legacy. This should be no surprise. Mexico’s corporate media enjoyed a close relationship to Calderón, receiving millions in advertising during his administration. Or perhaps papers like El Universal have opted to tread carefully in their coverage after one witness accused the outlet of receiving bribes from García Luna in exchange for favorable coverage.


US prosecutors, meanwhile, presented a weak case during the just-concluded trial, presenting no “smoking gun.” As a result, the jury may not return a guilty verdict. But regardless of the trial’s outcome, Mexicans continue to live with the consequences of the decisions made during Calderón’s time in office.


Fortunately, under AMLO, the government has abandoned the Calderón war rhetoric and committed itself to securing peace. For the sake of the millions of Mexicans still living with the consequences of the war between narcos, peace can’t come soon enough.

José Luis Granados Ceja, a Mexican freelance journalist, is currently studying human rights and popular democracy at the Autonomous
University of Mexico City. His writings on democratic struggles in Latin America appear regularly online at his Antimperialistia site.