Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Up to the Highest Level: Narco Infiltration in Felipe Calderon’s Government

By Ricardo Ravelo, Proceso
Translation from the original Spanish and notes by Kristin Bricker

The animosity between the heads of Federal Attorney General’s Office and the Public Security Ministry don’t just immobilize the federal government and make its crusade against drug traffickers and organized crime futile. It also shows that both institutions are so porous that the gangsters have already positioned themselves in them. The infiltration is of such magnitude that even Eduardo Medina Mora and Genaro Garcia Luna have become suspect.


The disagreements between the heads of the Public Security Ministry (SSP in its Spanish initials) and the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) keep Felipe Calderon’s government practically submerged in a lack of credibility and without an effective strategy in its fight against organized crime.

In the almost two years that Calderon has been in office, the leaking of information, the alleged protection of drug traffickers, the power struggles, and the vices in both agencies have been exacerbated, which impedes the success of the crusade against the drug cartels.

Combined with that, within the past couple of days in multiple states, narcobanners appeared in which the head of the SSP, Genaro Garcia Luna, and multiple agents from that ministry are referred to as protectors of the Sinaloa cartel, which is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

After the capture of Jesus “El Rey” Zambada Garcia, his son Jesus Zambada, and other Sinaloa cartel members, two of Garcia Luna’s colleagues, Victor Gerardo Garay Cadena and Luis Cardenas Palominos, the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) internal commissioner and the intelligence coordinator of the SSP, respectively, were interrogated by agents from the Assistant Attorney General’s Office for Specialized Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO) for allegedly protecting the Sinaloa cartel’s hitmen.

On October 30, three days after the interrogation, when all indications were that they would be detained, Garcia Luna “strongly pressured” the PGR so that they would be freed, according to a source inside the PGR. Likewise, federal police, particularly from the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI), accuse Garcia Luna of being in collusion with the Sinaloa cartel since the last administration, when he served as director of the AFI. On October 31 Garay Cadena resigned from his position.

And for the same reasons—protecting the Sinaloa cartel hitmen and the messages on the narcobanners—about 70 federal agents, many from the PFP’s Special Operations Group, which operated under Garay Cadena’s orders, were subpoenaed to make statements to the SIEDO.

Commissioner Javier Herrera Valle, the ex-commissioner of the PFP who was recently fired from the SSP, says that Garcia Luna has become an untouchable official, despite his dark past and the signs that link him to drug trafficking.

“Garcia Luna, at least according to what Juan de Dios Castro Lozano (the PGR’s assistant attorney general for human rights) tells me, is President Calderon’s spoiled official. I think that’s why he can’t be touched,” says Herrera Valle.

This reporter asked Herrera, “Do you think Garcia Luna is the spoiled man in the Cabinet, or are there dark complicities that unite him with the president?”

“I don’t know what to think or say anymore. I haven’t received responses to my letters in which I denounce corruption. But I don’t doubt that Garcia Luna is untouchable, and that is very dangerous for the country.”

Immovable

The signs that Garcia Luna is allegedly in league with the Sinaloa cartel aren’t new. According to information from the PGR, his alleged relationships with narcos date back to 2005 and he hasn’t even been investigated for that.

The criminal investigation PGR/SIEDO/UEIDCS/106/2005 against the Beltran Leyva brothers’ cell—when they maintained a solid alliance with the Sinaloa cartel and controlled Guerrero state—contains revelations that implicate the head of the SSP in the alleged protection of this criminal group.

It has to do with transcriptions of telephone calls, emails sent by people who identify themselves as members of the Gulf cartel—in 2005 there was a serious fight between Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva family for control of Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, two important narco turfs—in which they report that Garcia Luna was receiving million-peso payments from the Beltran Leyvas.

Along with other messages, a call received on May 15, 2005, in the PGR became part of a body of evidence. The report says:

In the general affairs office during the night watch, an anonymous call was received at the number 5228618399 from a person who said he was a Gulf cartel member. He called to report that agents from the Federal Investigation Agency [in 2005 Garcia Luna served as the AFI’s director] stationed in Acapulco and Zihuatanejo, Guerrero, detained five Zetas yesterday afternoon, May 4, (and) that instead of handing them over to the district attorney’s office and sending them to jail, they handed them over to Arturo Beltran Leyva’s cartel. He also said that it wasn’t good that AFI agents played narcopolice.

In another report in the criminal investigation, over which Garcia Luna was not bothered, let alone investigated, there is a blunt detail: that the current Secretary of Public Security was receiving money from the Sinaloa cartel:

We know that the AFI director, Genaro [Garcia] Luna is in collusion with Arturo Beltran Leyva’s organization. He has received great quantities of money through a director named Domingo Gonzalez (the same man to whom Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villareal paid a million dollars so that he would protect him and his boss Arturo Beltran Leyva), who is in the neighboring country of Belize as a fugitive from justice.

The message, allegedly sent to the PGR by Gulf cartel personnel, ends with a warning:

We are waiting for your intervention in this reproachable action as soon as possible and we demand [that] you free our five compañeros and return them to their families. If not, we will rain all our strength and anger upon those narcopolice. If there isn’t a reaction, in five days we will pass all of this information to the media, and two days later you will receive our personal message against those bandits or narcopolice.

In addition to the messages that President Felipe Calderon has received about the internal disintegration in the SSP and the corruption (selling positions within the ministry, “doubling up” on travel allowances [making business trips family vacations], and the police and high ranking PFP officials’ collusion with narcos), Garcia Luna continues to be immovable, and now his position seems to be reinforced by the reappearance of Jorge Tello Peon—his mentor—,who served as Undersecretary of Public Security during [former president] Ernesto Zedillo’s term and disappeared from the public stage shortly after El Chapo Guzman escaped from prison in January 2001.

The signs that Garcia Luna serves the narcos’ interests have come from many sources, but none of them have worked. He continues in his position, despite everything.

On August 1, 2007, for example, the Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora received a letter signed by a protected witness—whose name and code were omitted for fear of reprisal—which refers to the relationship Garcia Luna, while he was director of the AFI, maintained with Alberto Pliego (now deceased), who was allegedly linked to the ephedrine business.[1]

According to a source, Pliego Fuentes—to whom the capture of Daniel “El Mochaorejas” Arizmendi[2] is attributed, amongst others—had a relationship with the Amezcua Contreras brothers’ cartel, known as pioneers in the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs and, through their relationships with high-ranking AFI officials, obtained the chemical substance that is the base for so-called designer drugs.

The crisis recently hit inside the SSP when hundreds of federal agents from the AFI as well as the PFP hardened their positions and hit the streets in a protest against Garcia Luna for his bad decisions in the fight against drug trafficking.

The dissenters demanded a purge within the institution, the removal of “commanders,” and an end to the project to unify the AFI and the PFP under a single command, which, according to them, means “giving more power to Garcia Luna to serve dubious interests.”

This past October 20, new evidence emerged regarding the alleged protection AFI and PFP officials offer the Sinaloa cartel, particularly to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and his family.

That day a shoot-out occurred in the vicinity of the Lindavista neighborhood in northern Mexico City, where El Mayo Zambada’s family members, including his brother Jesus Zambada, had rented a house. During the confrontation, which resulted from a supposed anonymous tip that alerted the authorities to the presense of the gangsters, four federal agents appeared who repelled the gunfire in defense of the alleged drug traffickers from the Pacific cartel.

According to information from the PGR, one of the agents that helped out the Zambada family is Ulises Rodriguez Rodriguez, who was presented as an ex-member of the now-defunct Federal Judicial Police. According to information from the SSP, this person is really named Marco Antonio Valadez Rico, an active PFP officer assigned to the Airports and Borders Division, under the orders of Oscar Moreno Villatoro.

The other three police, who also operate within Garcia Luna’s close circle, are: Carlos Gerardo Castillo Ramirez, assigned to the AFI’s Regional Deployment department; Jose Guillermo Baez Figueroa, who worked in the PFP’s Regional Deployment Division; and Francisco Montaño Ochoa, ministerial agent from the state of Mexico, a territory currently disputed by Los Zetas, La Familia, and the Sinaloa cartel.

Unfulfilled Promises

In the PGR the situation is even more critical. Over a period of decades there are few attorney generals who have not been implicated in corruption or for their links with drug trafficking.

Medina Mora’s two most recent predecessors, Rafael Macedo de la Concha and Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, promised to clean up the PGR with triumphant discourses. Both failed.

The first was caught up in various scandals, one in particular, according to the criminal investigation PGR/GRO/ACAAMA/413/2005, accused him of protecting Los Zetas; the second, who worked in the PGR during the last 20 months of the Fox administration, recognized his failure. He even stated before he quit that his agents were on the verge of capturing El Chapo Guzman, but that he managed to escape.

Medina Mora, upon being ratified by the Senate in December 2006, declared: “The PGR’s promise is to reclaim the spaces lost to organized crime. Mexicans can rest assured that they live in a country with laws, with absolute respect for human rights, with effective and transparent law enforcement.”

He added: “The great responsibility of this institution is to avoid fear and promote Mexicans’ confidence in the institutions responsible for carrying out justice…”

Almost two years after that discourse, in which he also promised to clean up the PGR, Medina Mora now faces one of the most serious conflicts: drug trafficking’s infiltration of the SIEDO, the most important assistant attorney general’s office in investigations against organized crime.

According to information from the PGR, the Beltran Leyvas’ cell managed to build a wide network of informants—secretaries, agents from the district attorney’s office, prosecutors, police—who notified them in advance of operations carried out against their organization.

Amongst the informants there are a little more than thirty agents from the district attorney’s office who passed information to the Beltran Leyva brothers, as well as confidential information about open investigations. In exchange for these favors, they received monthly rewards of between USD$350,0000 and USD$400,000.

Of the SIEDO employees that worked for the Beltran Leyva brothers, a few stand out: Miguel Colorado and Fernando Rivera, who were allied with Antonio Mejia and Jorge Alberto Zavala. Today the four are imprisoned in the Puente Grante jail in Jalisco. Meanwhile, Javier “El Pinocho” Jimenez Sanchez, an AFI agent assigned to the SIEDO, and Jose Antonio Cueto Lopez, former Federal Judicial Police agent and alleged link between the Beltran Leyvas and high-ranking SIEDO officials, are fugitives.

When the conflict hit the SIEDO, which raised doubts about Medina Mora’s promise two years ago to clean up the agency, Medina Mora tried to defend himself by declaring that there was a relaxing of personnel control and the custody of the information contained in the SIEDO’s dossiers.

He added, “The standard recruiting and selection mechanisms have not been regularly practiced. Moreover, perhaps they haven’t been practiced with the rigor and thoroughness that’s required.”

This is not the first time that the Sinaloa cartel has infiltrated the power structure. The SIEDO scandal is similar to what occurred under the Vicente Fox administration, when the Beltran Leyvas “hooked” the chief of presidential tours, Nahum Acosta, who maintained an intimate relationship with Arturo Beltran.

This link was discovered by US DEA agents, as well as through recordings that were handed over to the SIEDO in which it was recommended that they investigate “what goes on in the number one house[3] in Mexico.”

In October 2001, shortly before the narcos’ infiltration into Los Pinos [the president’s official residence] was discovered, the emblematic members of the Juarez cartel—Vicente Carrillo, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, Javier “El JT” Torres Felix, and Arturo “El Chaky” Gonzalez Hernandez, amongst others—created a network of informants in the PGR and in the National Defense Department (Sedena).

Amongst the informants there were prosecutors and soldiers. One of the group’s bosses was Francisco Tornez Castro or Victor Manuel Llamas Escobar, known as “Captain Tornez,” who was in charge of the collection and processing of substantive information provided by infiltrated cells in multiple government agencies, which was then handed over to the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels.

Those operations are similar to those that were recently discovered in the SIEDO.

Notes:
[1] Ephedrine is a precursor of methamphetamine.
[2] Daniel “El Mochaorejas” Arizmendi is a cop-turned-kidnapper. His trademark was to cut the ears off his victims and send them to their families with a ransom note. He’s responsible for at least three murders and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is imprisoned in the same maximum-security prison as the Frente Popular en Defensa de la Tierra’s leader Ignacio “Nacho” del Valle, who was convicted of a crime he wasn’t anywhere near when it allegedly occurred. Nacho didn’t kill anyone (although at the protest he was imprisoned over, police murdered two people), but he’s in prison for 112 years.
[3] Nahum Acosta worked in Los Pinos, the president’s official residence. The DEA and the SIEDO have recordings of Hector Beltran Leyva, one of the leaders of the Beltran Leyva organization, calling Acosta at his Los Pinos office. In one recording, Beltran Leyva arranges to leave a “little gift” of USD$5 million with Acosta’s doorman at his home. Acosta was arrested, but later released for “lack of evidence.”

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