Luis Rubio

The verdict in the trial of García Luna directly affects the individual accused but, along the way, the questioning exposed the entire Mexican political system and exhibited a world of ambivalences concerning justice, drugs, corruption and the Mexico–United States relationship. It was not Mexico, but instead the political establishment that sat on the bench of the accused. And the result is not commendable for anyone.

What was extraordinary and exemplary about the trial, beyond the drama inside the courtroom, were the narratives, emotions, and opinions manifested throughout the process. To begin with, there appears to be nary a Mexican who does not think that García Luna is guilty. Some think that he is guilty of what he is accused of, the rest think that he is guilty of many other things, but all think that he deserves what is happening to him. The trial was about his participation in narcotrafficking, while the majority of Mexicans were picturing corruption in their minds. The ambivalence with respect to the essence of justice -that culpability must be demonstrated- is a subtlety that escapes Mexicans’ way of being. Decades of a corrupt judicial system that never achieves what the Constitution promises -prompt and expeditious justice- has made Mexico a country of cynics when it comes to criminality or corruption. The inexorable supposition is that everything is corrupt, which contradicts that often-hinted-at presumption (by AMLO in his daily rant) that “we are not equal.”

The trial essentially dealt with the importation of drugs from Mexico into the U.S. and the alleged assistance that the Ex-Minister of Public Security could have provided to the narcotraffickers. For the majority of Mexicans, those charges are perceived as irrelevant (or perhaps superfluous) because they are seen as different from those that are truly transcendent, that is, those that have something to do, in that line of thought, with his passing through the government and the corruption he might have entertained as much through government purchases as with links to organized crime. Of course, one does not exclude the other. However, for many Mexicans the issue of drugs continues to be seen as a U.S. problem that, by derivation, affects Mexico, as if the petty problems of insecurity, the mafias that create them and the incapacity of the Mexican government to deal with them did not exist.

The President became the privileged narrator of the trial because he supposed that this would emit a direct hit at his nemesis, Ex-President Felipe Calderón (which did occur), but the narrative ceased the day that the blows rained down on everyone, including the current government. Although nearly all the witnesses of the trial were convicted criminals seeking to reduce their sentences (which could well have biased their testimonies), what cannot be invented is the corruption that permeates the whole Mexican political system, from which no government can save itself.  Naive were those who thought that the only ones sullied would be the others.

García Luna was transformed into a symbol of the national state of affairs: whatever the sources of his fortune, all seemed to be related with his stint in Mexican politics. And that is the crucible through which he is viewed in Mexico: the trial served as confirmation of all the prejudices that characterize Mexicans with respect to their system of government.  Independently of political or party predilections, all politicians -and the system in general- emerge from the trial scratched and bruised. As proof, it is sufficient to remember that the drugs (and the corruption) continue to flow without limit despite that it has been ten years since García Luna left the government, proving that he was no more than one cog in a big machinery.

The trial evidenced the incapacity, or indisposition, of Mexican justice to sort out matters of corruption openly and transparently. One of the central elements of the trial, as seen from Mexico, was the fact that the process and all the testimonies were made public, in severe contrast with the opacity of the national judicial processes. The mere fact of exhibiting the corrupt practices became a milestone. In the face of that, it is inevitable the presumption that everything in Mexican justice is no more than an arranged (and politicized) fight.

But, above all, the trial exposed the ambivalences that distinguish the bilateral relationship, the positive as well as the negative.  In the same way that there are natural spaces of cooperation and mutual benefit, there are others in which resentments and grudges dominate on both sides of the border. Despite the enormous advances in building closeness between both nations, especially in economic and commercial matters, suspiciousness persists.

Because, at the end of the day, the AMLO administration has not faced the security problems or the ever-growing corruption, both at levels never before seen. And now the government will begin to see the wrath of American extremists that believe that they can fix it all from the outside. The liabilities never stop piling up.

Indeed, those who seem oblivious to all this coming and going are those who persist in engaging in corruption without realizing that in a few years they could be sitting on the same bench where the Ex-Minister recently sat in a New York court.