Federal police say Garcia Luna's bodyguards witnessed the head of Mexico's Public Security Ministry discuss an "agreement" with a drug cartel gangster
The Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, who is considered untouchable and Felipe Calderon's "spoiled official," has maintained numerous public officials accused of having links to drug traffickers--El Mayo Zamabada in particular--in his inner circle. An investigation carried out by agents who are opposed to the proposed police integration assure in a letter sent to Congress, which Proceso has a copy of, that this past October numerous armed men intercepted Garcia Luna on a highway and disarmed members of his escort while a gangster warned him, "This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don't follow through on the pact..." The document adds that then Garcia Luna withdrew from the spot for four hours in order to negotiate with the gangster...
With his powerful tentacles and his ability to corrupt police and infiltrate the institutions responsible for combatting drug trafficking--including the National Defense Department--, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada Garcia has extensive control within the Public Security Ministry (SSP in its Spanish initials), which is led by Genaro Garcia Luna, whose main collaborators--some of them currently held under administrative detention--are accused of being at the service of the man who today is considered to be the top boss of the Sinaloa cartel.
The owner of estates and ranches, untouchable in Sinaloa--his stronghold--, Zambada Garcia has broad networks of complicity at his disposal in the most important departments in the PGR [Federal Attorney General's Office], such as the SIEDO [the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime], and in the SSP, where various top-level officials are being investigated for serving the gangster who, following the example of Amado Carrillo--who for many years was his business partner--, transformed his appearance with plastic surgery.
Also untouchable and considered to be President Felipe Calderon's "spoiled official," Garcia Luna doesn't appear to escape the networks that Zambada Garcia and the Beltran Leyva brothers created in the SSP. The Beltran Leyva brothers left the Sinaloa cartel following a division sparked by the aprehension of Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran this past January.
Police who are opposed to the federal police unification project carried out an investigation regarding the alleged ties between Garcia Luna and Zambada Garcia's and Arturo "El Barbas" Beltran Leyva's cells.
In a field investigation, backed up by records and revelations that were supposedly made by Garcia Luna's own body guards, the police agents reconstructed an episode that occurred this past October 19 in Morelos state, which they recount in a letter sent to the Chamber of Deputies [Mexico's lower house of Congress] and the Senate with the goal of demonstrating, according to the agents, the danger that granting more power to the SSP would entail. They assert that a significant number of SSP police commanders are working for drug traffickers.
The document details:
...This past October 19 (...) the current Federal Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna and his escort, comprised of approximately 27 agents, (...) was intercepted or summoned on the Cuernavaca-Tepoztlan highway by a high-ranking gangster who was accompanied by an undetermined number of shooters or hitmen in approximately 10 armored Suburbans. Said official's escort did nothing to protect him, apparently due to a verbal order from him (Garcia Luna).
The letter that is now in the hands of legislators--a copy was delivered to Proceso--adds that members of Garcia Luna's escort, under orders "from the high ranking drug gangster," were disarmed and blindfolded for "approximately four hours."
The agents who are familiar with the incident, and whose names are omitted for fear of reprisals, state in the document that the "gangster's" voice said to Garcia Luna: "This is the first and last warning so that you know that, yes, we can get to you if you don't follow through on the pact."
The document asserts that, after the gangster's statement, Garcia Luna retreated, "leaving his escorts to their own luck, without knowing the route he took or what he did during those four long hours, time in which he could talk in a more comfortable place away from the spot where the alleged incident occurred."
And, in another point, the letter says:
It shouldn't go unnoticed that the Secretary in question is an expert actor in deceit. It should be remembered that in the past he created a circus around a kidnapping in Ajusco in Mexico City in which a French woman was supposedly involved, where he summoned the televised media and (...) manipulated all of his bodyguards, making them believe that what happened was a drug gangster's attempt to intimidate (a levanton or drug-related kidnapping), though the truth is that it was a meeting arranged by this alleged gangster.
According to investigations carried out by the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), a good number of the officials closest to Garcia Luna appear to be contaminated by drug trafficking. Evidence that the SSP is one of the institutions most infiltrated by the Sinaloa cartel and other illicit organizations has arisen since the Vicente Fox adminstration, and even more under the current administration.
For example, Édgar Enrique Bayardo del Villar, ex-inspector assigned to the Federal Preventive Police's Operations Section, was taken into custody by the SIEDO for allegedly serving Zambada Garcia. Close to Garcia Luna, with a salary no higher than MX$26,000 monthly [at the time approximately USD$2,600], Enrique Bayardo rose out of poverty to achieve a magnificent wealth.
According to the investigation of the facts, in which PFP agents Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández are also implicated, Bayardo del Villar today owns two residences with a combined value of close to 9 million pesos.
Overnight, Bayardo del Villar broke out of his financial difficulties and bought himself BMW, aMercedes Benz, and an armored Cherokee. He spent 12 million pesos on these acquisitions and, just like his residences, he paid for them in cash.
Another piece of this network that is presumably at the service of the brothers Jesús and Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada--within Garcia Luna's inner circle of trust--is Gerardo Garay Cadena, ex-commissioner of the PFP, who this past November 1 resigned from his position to voluntarily put himself "at the disposal of the authorities," although the SIEDO immediately put him under administrative detention. During the inquiries the spotlight also fell on other officials linked to Garay Cadena. One of them is Francisco Navarro, chief of the SSP's Special Operations, with broad control over the Mexico City International Airport, known as one of the major operations centers where drugs come in and drug trafficking money goes out.
Within this group that, according to the PGR, protected El Mayo Zambada, Luis Cárdenas Palominos also appears. Known as Garcia Luna's "right hand man," he wasn't put under administrative detention but he keeps being called to make statements to the SIEDO. Other high-ranking SSP and PFP officials who are held under administrative detention are Jorge Cruz Méndez and Fidel Hernández García.
The statement delivered to the federal Congress, in particular to the Security and Justice commissions--where the project to unify the federal police is being pushed, which is said will be resolved this year--, the AFI agents assert that Garcia Luna is incorporating personnel into the PFP and the SSP who have criminal records and ties to organized crime.
In the majority of the cases, they warn about inexperience and improvisation in investigations related to organized crime activity that, according to Edgardo Buscaglia, an investigator with the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), constitute a range of 25 crimes such as drug trafficking, contraband, kidnapping, and human trafficking.
In their statement, the agents tackle the corruption and disorder that run rampant in Garcia Luna's agency. They say that personnel called to leave the AFI [which Garcia Luna used to run] and join the Federal Police [which Garcia Luna now runs as head of the SSP] have not completed four years of police duty and that priority is given to those who come recommended or who are supporters of high-ranking officials, as well as "high-ranking officials' friends and lovers."
A number of the agents' statements and warnings can be confirmed even in recent incidents. For example, two days after Gerardo Garay's resigniation, on November 3, Garcia Luna named Rodrigo Esparza Cisterna as acting commissioner of the PFP. Esparza Cisterna has a history that is as long as it is shady.
In 1993, when Rodrigo Esparza was a PGR delegate in Sinaloa, the first rumblings surfaced over his alleged relationship with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, then a bitter rival of the Arellano Félix brothers, the bosses of the Tijuana cartel.
According to the official memo DGPDSC/UEA/1938/2005, dated August 12, 2005, and obtained through a request to the Federal Institute for Access to Information (record number 0001700181305), Esparza was accused of impeding the administration of justice. Said accusation was registered in the criminal proceeding 159/93, which came out of the criminal investigation 3423/93. On June 28, 1993, the charges were accepted by the Third Criminal Court in the Ramo District in Mexico City, and later he was imprisoned awaiting trial.
His detention was revoked on August 23, 1993, via judicial tricks. In less than three months, Esparza saw the investigation into his alleged wrongdoings buried with a stay of proceedings in his case. This precedent notwithstanding, Rodrigo Esparza is now Garcia Luna's right hand man in the PFP.
A Portrait of Power
El Mayo Zambada was chubby and round-faced, but one day Vicente and Amado Carrillo, who underwent plastic surgery in the Santa Monica clinic in Mexico City--the clinic where Amado Carrillo died in 1997--, suggested that he change his appearance and he accepted.
Zambada lost weight and made his cheeks smaller. His face became more chiseled and a bit elongated thanks to the face lift. When Jose Luis Santiago Vasconcelos was head of the SIEDO, federal agents found, during a search of one of his multiple properties, a photograph where Zambada Garcia looked rejuvenated and slender. The photo was saved in the files related to the Juarez cartel, the organization that El Mayo belonged to. Untouchable for decades, Ismael Zambada has demonstrated his power and ability to increasingly infiltrate government institutions during the Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox, and Felipe Calderon administrations: over 35 Federal District Attorney agents assigned to the SIEDO were his employees, and each one received USD$350,000-$400,000 monthly for leaking information about case files and preliminary investigations in progress against members of his organization. During Vicente Fox's term, the Sinaloa cartel even infiltrated the National Defense Department (Sedena), where, through Arturo "El Chaky" Gonzalez Hernandez, various high-ranking military officials who operated the telecommunications systems were coopted. They advised him in advance that in a matter of days or hours military operations would be carried out.
Moreover, El Mayo Zambada had control of the Sinaloa police, and high-ranking military commanders looked after his personal safety and his businesses. The impunity and power were of such a magnitude that in December 2005 at the El Mezquite ranch, a Christmas party was organized. The band Ilusion provided the entertainment. Zambada Garcia attended the party. Rivers of alcohol flowed, strong doses of cocaine were distributed, and shots were fired into the air.
This drew the attention of a sector of the Mexican military stationed in Sinaloa, which requested a search warrant in order to enter the ranch. Due to the fact that--rather unusually--it took hours to issue the warrant, Zambada Garcia had time to leave the site, which was protected by police, and calmly go to his hideout, a fortress whose entrances and sidewalks are permanently guarded by his people.
In May 2007, the United States Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control published a report that six companies and twelve people in Mexico are part of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada's financial network.
The US report indicates that Zambada's ex-wife, Rosario Niebla Cardoza, was well as his four daughters--Maria Teresa, Miriam Patricia, Monica del Rosario, and Modesta Zambada Niebla--play a key role in El Mayo's dirty businesses. They carry out an important function in the gangster's "property and control of his companies."
After the falling out between the Beltran Leyva brothers and "El Chapo" Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel--at its peak it was perhaps the most powerful criminal organization in Latin America--suffered a reduction in power, but it hasn't been brought down completely.
According to information from the SSP and the PGR, the Beltrans extended their tentacles: they penetrated the SIEDO, the PGR, and a good part of the military's regional commands, in addition to allying themselves with Los Zetas and the Juarez cartel, whose current boss is Vicente "El Viceroy" Carrillo.
Zambada Garcia and Joaquin Guzman have maintained their alliance, and Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel and the Cazares Salazar brothers are also a part of this group.
This drug clan suffered a loss recently: this past October 17, Jesus "El Rey" Zambada Garcia, El Mayo's brother who had a reputation for being discrete, was detained in Mexico City. Up until 2007, Jesus Zambada was not considered a kingpin--not even by United States intelligence agencies--, but after his capture Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora described him as one of the most important people in El Mayo Zambada's money laundering network.
Another event alluded to the true power of El Rey Zambada: in Culiacan, Sinaloa, a banner was hung near the state Congress that shot down the thesis that Jesus Zambada Garcia was a small-time player. The banner said:
Chapo Guzman, they kill your son and you keeping being murderers' friends. Don't be ashamed; how Nachito Coronel has changed you. He bosses you around to his liking and all because he takes care of you. Intelligent El Rey Zambada: you are killing counties, states, and ministerial cabinets, and he is unloading ephedrine and cocaine in the Mexico City airport.
In October--the month in which Garcia Luna was supposedly intercepted in Morelos, according to the agents' statement--, the blows against El Mayo Zambada's organization worsened. The Quinta La Paloma and Los Alpes ranches in Acaxochitlan, Hidalgo, were searched by federal police. The SIEDO said the properties belonged to El Rey Zambada.
El Mayo Zambada received a financial blow on September 18 when USD$26 million was seized--money which he had hidden in a safe house, carefully stacked in egg boxes.
Despite the blows against the Sinaloa cartel and notwithstanding the division that it suffered with its separation from the Beltran brothers, the organization continues afloat in drug trafficking: it controls sea ports and airports, and it has allies in high levels within the SSP who, according to the missive sent by federal police to Congress, "are obligated to follow through on the pacts."
 The Mexican government has proposed combining the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI in its Spanish initials) with the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) under a single command: that of the SSP. The AFI is currently the Federal Attorney General's (PGR's) police force and was founded to be an investigative police force. The PFP, on the other hand, is the Public Security Secretary's police force. It aims to "prevent crimes" and is more militarized than other police forces. Over 150 agents from the PFP and AFI hit the streets in September in protest of the plan, arguing that it would give more control to Garcia Luna and the corruption-ridden SSP.
 Amado Carrillo Fuentes led the Juarez cartel along with other family members. Carrillo Fuentes died in 1997 during a plastic surgery operation that was intended to change his appearance. The doctors alleged to have botched the operation, Dr. Jaime Godoy Singh, Dr. Ricardo Reyes Rincón, and Dr. Carlos Humberto Avila Melgem, were widely reported to have been brutally tortured, murdered, and partially entombed in cement-filled oil drums. The PGR had charged the doctors with murdered Carrillo Fuentes, claiming that they should have known that administering the sleeping drug Dormicum would have killed him due to his liver problems. However, there are rumors that Dr. Rincón, also known as Pedro López Saucedo and Pedro Rincón, is alive and residing in the United States under the witness protection program in exchange for information about the Juarez cartel. The Washington Post reported that Dr. Rincón knew Carrillo Fuentes and had operated on many of his friends. "Rincón" means "secluded corner" in Spanish and may have alluded to his status as a back-alley doctor.
 Vasconcelos died in the November 4, 2008, plane crash that also killed Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mouriño, three other government officials, three crew members, and six people who were on the ground when the plane hit Mexico City's financial district. The official explanation for the crash was that the pilot followed a Mexicana commercial airliner too closely and the resulting turbulence downed the plane.
 Los Zetas was a specialized unit of the Mexican military that received training in the US School of the Americas. After completing their US taxpayer-funded training, they defected from the military en masse and became drug cartels' armed thugs. They've been accused of running their own drugs, too.
 Ignacio "Nacho" Coronel is known as the "King of Crystal" because he dominates the crystal meth market. He is also alleged to move cocaine and run the Sinaloa cartel's finances.
 Blanca Margarita Cazares Salazar has been identified as being in charge of the Sinaloa cartel's money laundering operation.
 In previous publicaitons, Ricardo Ravelo has described the Sinaloa cartel has having a "rectangular" structure with numerous cells, as opposed to a top-down "pyramid" headed by one person. This makes the cartel more flexible and adaptable, and less vulnerable to operations that aim to pick off its leaders. Zambada Garcia, Guzman Loera, Coronel, and the Cazares Salazar family have all been identified by the US government as Sinaloa cartel leaders, and all appear on the US government's "Foreign Narcotics Kingpins" list.