It’s not just President Felipe Calderon who’s leaving office Saturday. It’s also the top tier of his government, many of them honorable functionaries, a few less so.
Among the most questioned is Genaro Garcia Luna, the Public Security Minister who seems to be facing ever-greater queries as he leaves office – presumably to go live in Miami.
Garcia Luna, an engineer, has been involved in intelligence operations for more than two decades. Word on the street is that Calderon kept him in his post for his entire six-year term because Garcia Luna knew too much from domestic wiretapping. Those kinds of aides can be dangerous.
In his job as a public servant, Garcia Luna appears to have amassed a sizeable personal fortune. As recently as 2007, he and his family lived in a modest home in a working class neighborhood. By 2009, he’d bought one home in the swank Jardines de la Montana district of southern Mexico City, and begun building another at a cost of nearly $2 million (photos here).
While all the U.S. officials I’ve talked to, usually off the record, voice confidence in Garcia Luna, it doesn’t quite add up.
The Federal Police he oversees have been involved in repeated scandals in the last six months.
First, there was the firefight in the food court at the Mexico City airport in which some federal police fired on and killed three of their colleagues. The shooting blew open evidence that federal police were letting drug rings operate at the terminal. Eventually, all 348 federal police working there were replaced.
Then came the incident in late August when federal police ambushed a U.S. Embassy vehicle in mountains outside of Mexico City. They fired 152 bullets at the vehicle, which they later said they suspected carried kidnappers. Rather, the vehicle carried two CIA operatives and a Mexican navy captain. Fourteen federal police and five commanders have been arrested for what prosecutors called a “direct” ambush.
The latest controversy to swirl around Garcia Luna erupted in the past two weeks. First, the muckraking Reporte Indigo reported that Garcia Luna’s wife, Linda Cristina Pereyra, has bought into a series of businesses in South Florida, including Oggi Caffe in North Bay Village and a pizzeria in Coconut Grove. A number of other enterprises, including security firms, are linked to the couple.
In a second controversy, a drug trafficker known by the nickname “La Barbie” sent a letter to the Reforma newspaper this week saying his crime gang had long paid off Garcia Luna.
"I can attest that he has received money from me, from drug-trafficking groups and organized crime," the Texas-born Edgar Valdez Villareal, 39, wrote in the letter, which The Wall Street Journal also obtained (see here).
Maybe the accused drug trafficker is lying. But still, are there not yet enough red flags up around Garcia Luna to merit a strong look at his wealth and actions?