For just over six hours, Genaro García Luna was angel and demon. The Prosecutor’s Office presented him as a criminal, a man who rose to the highest levels of the Mexican Government and benefited for years from millionaire bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel. In the eyes of the defense, however, his client was an exemplary civil servant, who sacrificed everything for his country as the face of the war on drugs. Those are the two extremes that were presented this Wednesday in the final stretch of the trial for drug trafficking faced by the former Secretary of Public Security in the United States. The Prosecutor’s Office and the defense clashed for the last time in the Brooklyn court to present their conclusions before the jury in the closing arguments. “Ladies and gentlemen, you have to believe it, corruption reached the highest levels,” said Assistant Prosecutor Saritha Komatireddy, “there is only one possibility: Genaro García Luna took the bribes.” “Where is the evidence?”, rebutted César de Castro, the defendant’s main lawyer. Twelve citizens of New York will decide who is right and find him guilty or not guilty in the next few days.
The lawyers for both parties presented their best face to 12 strangers. They were nice, they explained everything with apples and pears, they tried to be as charming as they could. Almost anything goes to convince a jury: sneering when rivals make their most important arguments, yawning when they talk too long, shaking their heads behind their backs. That’s what closing arguments are about. The sole objective of the Prosecution is to prove its case and remove any trace of doubt in the jury that the defendant is guilty. Garcia Luna’s lawyers have to make them believe otherwise. “This case was put together for over a decade, it took time to put the pieces together,” Komatireddy said, “but the pieces fit, everything fits,” he added. “It is impossible for the cartel to have expanded as it did without the support of the Mexican government,” he concluded. At some point in his exposition, he pointed out on a map all the states where Joaquín’s faction grew up. El Chapo Guzman. Sonora, Sinaloa, Durango, Chihuahua, listed the lawyer with a marked American accent.
In the strategy game, the most urgent battle for the Prosecutor’s Office was to defeat the defense’s argument that there is no physical evidence against his client. “There are no videos, there are no photographs, there are no recordings, there are no emails,” De Castro insisted. The closing arguments were an opportunity for the prosecutors to respond and settle the fact that no one knows more about a criminal than his accomplices. “It takes one criminal to meet another,” Komatireddy said.
The prosecutor chose to be didactic: she put up a board titled United States against García Luna, placed the photos of the drug traffickers involved, projected a Power Point presentation and went through the slides one by one. “We also had Édgar Veytia and Héctor Villarreal here,” she said about the testimonies of the former Nayarit prosecutor and the former Coahuila treasurer, who pleaded guilty in the United States. “They told everything about how corruption works in Mexico,” she continued. “These guys are like the FedEx for cocaine, they use trains, boats, submarines,” she said of men like Harold Poveda. Rabbit or Tirso Molina Football player. Everything has to be put in the simplest and most direct terms. “Believe them, they are the only ones who can point the finger at the crooked cops who helped them.”
“It makes sense, they had confidence, they had a friendship,” Komatireddy said of García Luna’s ties to Arturo Beltrán Leyva, one of the most feared drug lords in Mexico, killed in 2009. “It is specific evidence, they paid or saw how they turned themselves in bribes, they could condemn him with that, but let’s continue,” he insisted. The prosecutor broke down everything again: why did they call the defendant a Machine Gun or a Stutterer, alluding to his speech problems; how the bosses declared that they had uniforms, patrol cars and credentials from the corporations run by the former official; where were the secret meetings that the aid workers denounced, and how men who did not know each other or had not seen or spoken to in years, sometimes old enemies, gave testimonies that pointed in the same direction: that García Luna did it.
“Bastard, don’t worry, everything is fixed,” Komatireddy said in Spanish, paraphrasing El Conejo’s statements and later apologized for the bad words. Along the way, the prosecutor made several statements far from the diplomatic language that weighs on diplomatic relations between Mexico and the United States. “When you talk about Mexico, you have to say that it is easy to launder money,” she commented. “They couldn’t trust their counterparts,” she commented on what former US ambassador Anthony Wayne recounted.
“The big problem that the Prosecutor’s Office has is that it cannot prove these accusations. They have to try them, we don’t,” De Castro replied. “They tell them that it is difficult to obtain evidence from Mexico, they are excuses,” he said as if he were speaking to the jurors over coffee. He did not rely so much on what he projected on the screen, he opted more for rhetorical questions and walks in front of the jury so as not to lose his attention. “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall for what they are telling you,” he asked the citizens. “Are there videos? No”. “El Grande said that Beltrán Leyva recorded his meetings, where are the recordings?” “Payments? They weren’t taught any of that.”
The litigant also bore the credibility of the witnesses, as he did in cross-examination. “Would you trust the word of these murderers, kidnappers and criminals to choose the school for your children?” New rhetorical question. “To make any important decision in your life?” De Castro also justified his client’s decision not to testify at the trial. “He doesn’t have to prove his innocence, although many of you probably wanted to hear it from him,” he conceded for a moment. “But he did,” he said as a metaphor for him and his team speaking for him. “And he’s telling them ‘I’m not guilty.’
Komatireddy had moments of complicity and got smiles from several members of the jury. From Castro, too. Several members nodded as he summarized his conclusions. As in the movies, the audience was staged.
At the end of the defense’s closing arguments, the Prosecutor’s Office validated the right to respond. They were the ones who had the last word. Erin Reid, the most experienced assistant prosecutor, once again refuted the question of basing the case on witness statements. “Let’s be very clear, we would love to call school teachers to testify in this trial,” the lawyer said before pausing, “but school teachers do not head criminal organizations.”
“All these arrests were in the United States or possible because of information provided by the United States,” Reid said of the arrests of trial cooperators. Regarding the statement of Cristina Pereyra, wife of the former secretary, as the only defense witness, she said that she was “a master class” in how politicians hide her heritage. “It didn’t matter at all, it was just a Show”.
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