A former top police official, jailed for alleged ties to drug traffickers, was reportedly tortured in prison. This could be linked to the ex-cop's feud with one of the most powerful men in the government: Security Minister Genaro Garcia Luna.

Former Federal Police coordinator Javier Herrera Valles is among the highest-ranking security officials to be investigated, tried, and sentenced for aiding a drug cartel under the Calderon administration. In December, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and banned from public office for allegedly receiving $70,000 a month in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.

As veteran crime journalist Ricardo Ravelo reported for Proceso, Herrera's brother now says that a group of men led by a military general tortured Herrera on February 13. They entered Herrera's cell, forced him to strip naked, and beat him savagely, the brother told Proceso. He alleged that the general was acting on the orders of Herrera's best-known enemy: Garcia Luna, Mexico's top police official, who heads the Public Security Department (SSP).

The feud between Garcia Luna and Herrera dates back to 2008, when Herrera made public two letters he had addressed to President Felipe Calderon, accusing Garcia Luna of incompetence and political favoritism. The implication of Herrera's complaints was that Garcia Luna, under the guise of cleaning up the SSP, removed the men best suited to the job and replaced them with his allies, in order to protect the Sinaloa Cartel.

Garcia Luna has faced accusations of ties to drug cartels for quite some time. Ravelo previously reported for Proceso that Mexico's Attorney General's Office had kept a file on allegations of Garcia Luna's relationships with drug lords since 2005, although he has never been formally investigated.

Shortly after Herrera's complaints went public, he was arrested, charged, and eventually imprisoned for ties to various drug cartels. His brother, Arturo, another police commander, was also temporarily detained. The timing of the arrests raised suspicions that Javier Herrera was being punished for attacking one of Calderon's closest confidants, a man whom Herrera once described as "untouchable."

As another Herrera brother told Proceso, "It's all a farce, it's a fabrication ordered by Garcia Luna because my brother accused him of trafficking influence, corruption and drug trafficking."

The beating Herrera recently received in prison was a further "revenge" carried out on Garcia Luna's orders, the brother added.

As Proceso reported, there are additional reasons to believe that Herrera may be serving time on trumped-up charges. One witness who helped build the initial case against Herrera later retracted his testimony. He said that after enduring "psychological and physical torture," SSP officials forced him to sign papers he didn't read, which he later found out accused Herrera of ties to organized crime. The witness later stated, "I don't know [Herrera] and I've never seen him before." The other primary witness in Herrera's case, who provided the most elaborate detail on Herrera's supposed dealings with the Sinaloa Cartel, is part of a government witness protection problem, and his identity has not been made public.

The long-running feud between Herrera and Garcia Luna raises the question of how often corruption cases against Mexican officials are motivated by personal vendettas. From time to time throughout his administration, Calderon has conducted anti-corruption sweeps, expelling public officials accused of colluding with drug cartels. Herrera was supposed to be an example of justice being done, burnishing the government's credentials as an administration committed to combating organized crime from the inside out. But Herrera's case could instead turn out to be one of the most damning examples of top-level corruption, if the accusations of the ex-cop and his family are proven.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 Leader 'Viejo Lin' on El Salvador Gang Truce

Barrio 18 leader Carlos Lechuga Mojica, alias "El Viejo Lin," is one of the most prominent spokesmen for El Salvador's gang truce. InSight Crime co-director Steven Dudley spoke with Mojica in Cojutepeque prison in October 2012 about how the maras view the controversial peace process, which has...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

Criminalization of FARC Elements Inevitable

While there is no doubt that the FARC have only a tenuous control over some of their more remote fronts, there is no evidence of any overt dissident faction within the movement at the moment.

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

The FARC 1964-2002: From Ragged Rebellion to Military Machine

On May 27, 1964 up to one thousand Colombian soldiers, backed by fighter planes and helicopters, launched an assault against less than fifty guerrillas in the tiny community of Marquetalia. The aim of the operation was to stamp out once and for all the communist threat in...

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

The Reality of the FARC Peace Talks in Havana

If we are to believe the Colombian government, the question is not if, but rather when, an end to 50 years of civil conflict will be reached. Yet the promise of President Juan Manuel Santos that peace can be achieved before the end of 2014 is simply...

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

'Chepe Luna,' the Police and the Art of Escape

The United States -- which through its antinarcotics, judicial and police attaches was very familiar with the routes used for smuggling, and especially those used for people trafficking and understood that those traffickers are often one and the same -- greeted the new government of Elias Antonio...

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

MS-13's 'El Barney': A Trend or an Isolated Case?

In October 2012, the US Treasury Department designated the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) as a transnational criminal organization (TCO). While this assertion seems unfounded, there is one case that illustrates just why the US government is worried about the future.

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

The Infiltrators: Corruption in El Salvador's Police

Ricardo Mauricio Menesses Orellana liked horses, and the Pasaquina rodeo was a great opportunity to enjoy a party. He was joined at the event -- which was taking place in the heart of territory controlled by El Salvador's most powerful drug transport group, the Perrones -- by the...

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

Ivan Rios Bloc: the FARC's Most Vulnerable Fighting Division

When considering the possibilities that the FARC may break apart, the Ivan Rios Bloc is a helpful case study because it is perhaps the weakest of the FARC's divisions in terms of command and control, and therefore runs the highest risk of fragmentation and criminalization.

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...