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Mexico's ex-public security head is convicted in the U.S. of taking cartel bribes

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A man named Genaro Garcia Luna was once a senior official in Mexico. And now a jury in the United States has found him guilty of a secret life.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The jury agreed that Garcia Luna took bribes from drug cartels. He did this at the same time he was working with U.S. authorities who tried to crack down on cartels. He was also found guilty of trafficking tons of illegal drugs into the U.S.

INSKEEP: Let's talk to a journalist who's been covering this case all along - Maria Hinojosa, longtime host of "Latino USA" and also co-host of the "USA v. Garcia Luna" podcast all about this case. Good morning.

MARIA HINOJOSA: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did Garcia Luna do?

HINOJOSA: Well, he was found guilty of - unanimously by this jury yesterday in federal court in Brooklyn. Same judge, same courtroom as El Chapo - the difference is, is that Genaro Garcia Luna was the top cop, a cabinet-level security officer within the presidency of Felipe Calderon in Mexico. And he was working for the DEA and all high-level U.S. government institutions, fighting this so-called war on drugs in Mexico, receiving millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayers to fight this war, except - oops - he was also working for the Sinaloa cartel. He was found guilty of being a member of that cartel. It was incredibly dramatic. But sadly, Steve, not a lot of interest from most of the American mainstream media, which is pretty disappointing.

INSKEEP: But you were there, of course, and also covering this all along. What was the practical effect of a top Mexican official taking bribes from a cartel? How did that affect the United States, for example?

HINOJOSA: Well, the United States says it has the highest level of intelligence and says that the DEA is the most premier law enforcement agency to fight this war on drugs. How is it possible that the United States, with all of its intelligence, didn't know or chose not to know, in which case we taxpayers need to know exactly what's going on with the DEA. And what is this war on drugs, after all? I mean, the truth is, is that right now, Genaro Garcia Luna is probably not going to have a chance to get out of prison. He may be spending the rest of his life in prison. Will that affect the traffic of drugs between the United States and Mexico? No. And of course, obviously, this is the consuming country of those drugs.

INSKEEP: Were you able to just trace the way that some of those drugs get to the United States and the way that, in effect, U.S. law enforcement failed to stop them?

HINOJOSA: You know, most Americans just would rather watch this on "Narcos" and not actually deal with real life. So we - my colleague Peniley Ramirez and I got on - in a car and went to Queens, and we saw the train tracks where the trains were arriving with cargo of soybean-laden cocaine distributed from Queens throughout New York and to Chicago. We heard about how the Mexico City airport was also being used as a major transportation hub for the Sinaloa cartel. This is all happening.

But how again, Steve, how is it possible that this is happening without the U.S. - as we say in Spanish, (speaking Spanish), without them realizing this. So for me, this is not just an indictment of a high-level Mexican government official. It's an indictment of the United States, the DEA and the intelligence that we trust. But how can we trust it when they were working with Genaro Garcia Luna?

INSKEEP: Maria Hinojosa, longtime host of "Latino USA" and co-host of the "USA v. Garcia Luna" podcast. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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