The suitcase of 79: the trial of García Luna reveals the police codes to pass drugs at the Mexico City airport

Narcos who freely entered the most important airports in Mexico, federal policemen who helped the cartels to unload drugs from planes, coded messages to seal the impunity pact. These have been the main revelations of the last hearing in the judgment contra Genaro Garcia LunaSecretary of Public Security of the Government of Felipe Calderon (2006-2012), this Tuesday in the Brooklyn court. The Prosecutor’s Office called Raúl Arellano, the first former Mexican agent to take the stand in the judicial process, and Israel Ávila, a front man for the Sinaloa cartel that flooded the country’s air terminals with cocaine. “I felt very tired and disappointed, and I decided to retire,” said Arellano, who appeared before the jury as an element disgusted by police corruption during the height of the war on drugs. “The principles that I believed in were trampled on,” he added. Ávila, for his part, has given the third testimony that directly accuses the former official of receiving multimillion-dollar bribes. “The maximum amount that I had to see was five million dollars,” he said.

79 and 40: The drug code and money

The first section of the hearing was marked by the testimony of Arellano, a former element of the Federal Police who was at the lowest level of the hierarchy in the corporation. “My role was to work 25 days in a row and rest for the next five days,” explained the witness, who in 2006 was assigned to the security force of the Mexico City International Airport, the most important in the country. Its main function was to guard the air terminal from the illegal traffic of “merchandise”: money, weapons and drugs. As time passed, however, he realized that something was wrong.

Once or twice a week, usually after a flight arrived from South America or a plane left for Europe or North America, the agents’ radios received the same code: for 45 all on 35. The code 45 refers to a instruction “by superior order” and the number 35 meant “to be pending”. That meant that all the policemen on duty had to stop all their tasks and just stand like statues, doing nothing. “We couldn’t carry out searches, we couldn’t stop anyone, nothing, we just had to show up,” explained Arellano, who appeared in court in a modest three-piece gray suit and a lime green shirt.

While most of the agents stood still, members of a “special group” of the Federal Police “ignored these orders” and disappeared from the view of the rest of their colleagues. When they met in the police dining room, those elements returned euphoric. “They were happy that ‘the suitcase,’ as they called the illegal cargo, had passed,” Arellano said. He was referring to money and large drug shipments. “Objection”, launched César de Castro, García Luna’s main lawyer. Judge Brian Cogan granted the request and the translation of that part of the testimony could not reach the ears of the jury.

The witness was able to say that while he earned 8,000 Mexican pesos a fortnight (about $400), the members of the “special group” would arrive late, be absent when they wanted, and soon boast of luxuries that were unaffordable with their salary, such as luxury sports cars. luxury and jewelry “They talked and they did it without any discretion,” Arellano said. The man even spoke of police commanders who had ordered the grips of their pistols lined with gold, like Guillermo Báez, a corrupt boss who ended up in jail. The most relevant thing is that the declarant managed to link the corruption with García Luna, the former head of the Federal Police. “I got to hear that everyone was happy,” he repeated, “even the bosses, boss Genaro, boss Facundo [Rosas Rosas], Luis Cardenas Palomino, everyone had received their share. It refers to the entire chain of command and the highest part of the old corporation. “They talked about how they had passed ‘the suitcase’ of the 79 [código para droga] and the 40 [dinero]″, settled Arellano. This time, De Castro could not stop the testimony of him. Objection denied.

From real estate salesman to lieutenant of the ‘narco’

After the lunch break, it was the turn of Ávila, a practically anonymous drug trafficker, unknown in the criminal universe, but who made it clear that he had a lot to say in the trial. Always according to his version, he first recounted that he dropped out in the fourth semester of university and began working as a real estate agent in various cities in Mexico in 2003. Two years later, some clients who presented themselves as members of the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), then directed by García Luna during the Government of Vicente Fox, asked him to rent a house in Cuernavaca, in the State of Morelos. They had vests, uniforms, credentials, weapons and vehicles from the corporation, and they said they were in the entity to supervise security in the 2005 state elections. “I started renting houses without really knowing who they were,” said the witness, dressed in a report beige of convict.

In 2006, customers “killed some people” and left the venue in a vehicle he had sold to them. The property he rented from them was seized. It was at that moment that they called him by phone to arrange an appointment and explain what had happened. They arranged to meet in a cafe, but they later took him to a remote area, supposedly guarded by elements of the Army, federal and state police. He “asked me if he knew who he was working for.” Avila was referring to Mario Villa Pinedaalias the MP, a high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel, although up to that point, for him, he was just another agent. “Yes, for people from the AFI and Genaro García Luna,” he replied. “You are not wrong. Neither you nor we work for Genaro García Luna, Genaro García Luna works for us,” replied the boss. He had just met his new direct boss and accepted the invitation to join the criminal organization of Joaquin El Chapo Guzman. It was already officially the home of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Bribery Excel

Ávila said that he knew everyone: El Chapo; to ishmael the may Zambada and his brother The king Zambada; Arturo Beltran; a Edgar Valdez Villarreal, The Barbie, y a Sergio Villarreal Barragan, aka The big one, the first witness called by the Prosecutor’s Office last week. They have all been protagonists of this trial. García Luna sits in the dock and with him, the first years of the war against drug trafficking in Mexico. He detailed how he secured safe houses, warehouses and small planes for the cartel. He recounted how he bribed notaries, altered the reported value of luxury properties, signed himself as the owner of mansions in the narco. And he also talked about how he began to keep the accounts of the MP and his brother, Alberto Pineda Villa the erased, in Excel spreadsheets to better manage the operations of the criminal group. “It was millions of dollars, in cash,” she declared.

Drug flows and the purchase of property, jewelry, and corrupt officials were recorded. Ávila assured that federal, state and municipal employees were being bribed. “To be covered on all sides.” On the payroll of the Beltrán Leyva cartel, at that time allies of the Sinaloa Cartel, was also Luis Ángel Cabeza de Vaca, the Morelos state security secretary, according to his testimony. Cabeza de Vaca, known to drug traffickers as the horns o Vacafaced a process for protecting the narco, but was released in Mexico for lack of evidence in 2016.

In the bribery Excel, the code name for García Luna, Avila said, was the stutterer o the submachine gun, another allusion to make fun of his speech problems. In addition to the five million that he assured that The king Zambada handed over to the former official, he said he knew of multiple millionaire bribes: “For three million, one million, 1.8 million… there were various amounts.” It is still not clear if the electronic file survives and if it has been integrated into the evidence that the Prosecutor’s Office will present at the trial.

“We got in and out with their help”

But Ávila maintained that, in exchange for the payments, the cartel did and undid Mexico: it placed and removed Federal Police commanders, it had government protection to move without setbacks, and it moved enormous drug shipments through the country’s airports. Mainly in Mexico City, in Acapulco, in Chiapas, in Morelos. “I can tell you about an occasion that was relevant,” the witness proposed.

According to his testimony, the criminal group received leaked information in December 2007 that the authorities were tracking one of their planes that was traveling without a flight plan to an airport in Morelos. The drug traffickers moved quickly to prevent the aircraft from being intercepted. He was carrying a load of 1,200 kilos of cocaine. It was the agents themselves who helped them anticipate the seizure. “I went with members of the cartel and federal police officers to the airport, other federal police officers who were there were waiting for us,” Ávila said. The elements escorted the capos to the platform area of ​​the air terminal and helped them unload the plane. They were also allowed to make a quick escape and hide in a house while things calmed down. “Supposedly, they started looking for us,” Ávila recalled. “What do you mean supposedly?” Assistant District Attorney Erin Reid, in charge of the questioning, asked. “We went in and out with their help,” said the witness. In addition, they heard the entire search operation on the police radio frequency. It was all a simulation.

Avila confirmed various passages from the testimony of El Grande, such as when García Luna was allegedly kidnapped for a few hours by the Beltrán Leyva group. He also recounted when he was tortured by cartel members, in a story with passages of extreme violence, when they thought he had betrayed them. They beat him, they cut him, they burned him. He still bears the marks on his body. The MP, his first direct boss, led the organization’s efforts to test his loyalty.

The witness also tortured, killed and participated when the Beltrán Leyva organization, in the midst of a total war between cartels, murdered the Pineda Villa brothers. “I was present at Mario’s death.” They accused them, like him, of treason. But El MP and El Borrado ended up abandoned on a highway between Cuernavaca and Mexico City.

After a struggle of forces in the session on Monday, García Luna’s lawyers suffered a setback on the last day. De Castro was frustrated in Arellano’s cross-examination by the defense and could not get him to contradict himself or waver. The pauses to think before speaking of the witness and his immovable position seemed to have driven him crazy. Ávila’s testimony has only gone through questions from the Prosecutor’s Office and is expected to continue on Wednesday. It is also expected that up to seven witnesses may appear at the next hearing to testify, although that will depend on how quickly their statements are released and how long the interrogations of both parties take.

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