The New York Prosecutor’s Office (United States) has requested a 10-year prison sentence for the former commander of the Mexican federal police, Iván Reyes Arzate, alias The Queen, after he pleaded guilty last October to having collaborated with drug trafficking. Arzate worked under the orders of the then Secretary of Security Genaro García Luna, prosecuted and awaiting trial for corruption and organized crime. Arzate confessed before a judge that in 2016 he received at least $290,000 in exchange for reporting on joint US-Mexican investigations to a group called El Follow-up 39, associated with the Sinaloa Cartel. The hearing that will decide his sentence is scheduled for this Wednesday.
Reyes’ confession before a New York court in October put the already complex process facing García Luna on the ropes, who after months of postponement of hearings due to the pandemic, is scheduled to sit on the bench in October of this year . The Queen’s statement opened the door to a possible collaboration with the US justice system and with it, a new blow against the former secretary and lord of the drug war during the Government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). For this possible collaboration, the defense has requested this Tuesday that the sentence does not exceed five years.
The federal judge who will hear Reyes’ case this week, Brian Cogan, is the same one who deals with García Luna’s and also the one who sentenced Joaquín to life in prison in 2019 El Chapo Guzmán in what the press called “the trial of the century.” It was in that same court in New York that García Luna’s name was publicly sounded for the first time during the trial against El Chapo. Ishmael’s brother The May Zambada —the historic leader of Sinaloa—, Jesús El Rey Zambada, Guzmán’s partner, declared in a hearing in February 2018 that the Sinaloa Cartel had bribed García Luna with millions in payments on at least two occasions. Arrested in December 2019 in Texas, Calderón’s anti-drug czar is accused of being the arm of the government that facilitated the most powerful cartel in the world to operate with impunity in Mexico, including charges of distribution and possession of cocaine, as well as false statements before agents of the Customs and Immigration Service.
Since 2003, Reyes had been part of the Special Investigations Unit of the Federal Police, the area dedicated to fighting organized crime in close collaboration with agents from the DEA, the US anti-drug agency. In 2008, Reyes was promoted to head of the department, thus becoming one of García Luna’s most trusted men, who had been appointed Secretary of Security two years earlier by Calderón to lead a strategy against drug trafficking that went through the mass exit of the military from the barracks to patrol the Mexican streets.
“While Reyes was directing the special unit of the Mexican Federal Police and working together with DEA agents, he was also meeting with the leaders of the cartels,” the Justice Department note read. The former police officer had already been sentenced in 2018 to three years in prison by another Chicago court for obstruction of justice. But in January of last year, when he was about to serve his sentence, the New York court re-indicted him on more drug-related charges and brought the case against him.
After Reyes’ confession, US justice has considered him a traitor of the Holy Trinity of drug fighting: he allegedly conspired against the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the FBI and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service, for its acronym in English). “By accepting thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for information, Reyes Arzate forged an alliance with drug traffickers and betrayed, not only the people of Mexico, but also the US agents with whom he worked, putting their lives at risk,” he pointed out. then the prosecutor Breon Peace in a statement from the Department of Justice. Under those same arguments, he asks for a higher sentence before Judge Cogan this Wednesday.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.