USA v. García Luna: A Story Where True Crime Meets Telenovela
True crime meets telenovela in this five-episode audio series, as two journalists share their obsession with a powerful and obscure character whose role in the so-called war on drugs has affected millions of lives in the United States.
The work of Futuro Investigates is made possible by the W.K.Kellogg Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Tow Foundation, the Geraldine H. Dodge Foundation, Michelle Mercer and Bruce Golden, and Hispanics in Philanthropy.
The DEA Trusted the Mexican Top Security Boss. Now, He Is Accused of Working for “El Chapo”
Genaro García Luna was the architect of the Mexican “war on drugs” and, for more than a decade, the closest ally in Mexico of the DEA. In a few weeks, he will face a trial in New York City for drug-trafficking. Futuro Investigates’ Executive Producer and Emmy-Award winner Peniley Ramírez has investigated García Luna for 10 years. Now, alongside Pulitzer prize winner Maria Hinojosa, she co-hosts “USA v. García Luna,” the latest podcast by Futuro Investigates. It is about García Luna, the DEA, and the “war on drugs.”
Podcast: Untouchable. Episode 1, USA v. García Luna
Peniley Ramírez has one obsession: Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s top security official from 2006 to 2012. For years, Peniley broke news of his alleged corruption in Mexico and the U.S.. Yet, García Luna seemed untouchable. That is, until his name was brought up by a former cartel leader during Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s U.S. trial. Now, he faces his own trial. In this episode, Peniley dives into the latest with her new friend Maria Hinojosa. Over a bottle of tequila, they raise questions about what García Luna’s upcoming trial says about the role of the U.S. in the “war on drugs.”
Podcast: The Mexican Hoover. Episode 2, USA v. García Luna
From CSI to Donna Summer, García Luna was fascinated by anything American. Several U.S. officials said that García Luna was the person they trusted the most in the Mexican government. They called him “The Mexican Hoover,” after John Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director. But soon, García Luna was facing accusations of corruption. In this episode, Peniley and Maria tell us exactly how far back those suspicions go as well as his obsessions, his childhood dreams, and how it all led to him heading the Mexican equivalents of the DEA, FBI, NSA and prison systems put together.
I Became Obsessed with a Fictional Character; It Turns out he is Real
Maria Hinojosa became obsessed with a Mexican top level security boss, now indicted in New York City for helping “El Chapo.” She explores why she worked on “USA v. García Luna,” the latest Futuro Investigates’ podcast, and why she believes the case against Genaro García Luna should lead the U.S. to look inward, and face the failures of the “war on drugs.”
Podcast: By the Train Tracks in Queens. Episode 3, USA v. García Luna
Peniley and Maria take a roadtrip to an unassuming warehouse in Queens. The location was once a front company for El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel. Now, García Luna is accused of facilitating drugs to New York, as part of El Chapo’s business chain. Maria and Peniley learn that accusations of collaboration between El Chapo and García Luna date back to as early as 2001 – way before he was appointed as Secretary of Public Security. In this episode, we reveal how García Luna was able to climb the highest ranks of Mexican politics and how he managed to stay there without any accountability for so long.
How a Mexican Police Boss Became a Millionaire
Genaro García Luna, the former head of the Secretary of Public Security in Mexico—and once a close ally of the U.S. government—faces a criminal trial in New York and a civil complaint in Miami. Both cases intend to prove that he took bribes while serving as the top government official in charge of leading the Mexican “war on drugs.”
Podcast: Operation Miami. Episode 4, USA v. García Luna
September 19, 2017 changed Peniley’s life. That morning, she found a picture that connected García Luna and two Mexican businessmen that Peniley had already been investigating. They had multimillion dollar contracts with the Mexican government. She emailed García Luna for a comment. Two minutes later, Mexico was hit with one of the worst earthquakes in its history. In this episode, we break down the scheme García Luna and his co-conspirators allegedly used to make themselves rich, and we explore the trauma journalists often experience while investigating a story for so long.
DEA-Trained Agents Work in Latin America and Conspire with the Cartels
For decades, the DEA has supported special units abroad, whose agents are local police officers vetted and trained by the U.S. Now, former agents and members of those units —some of them currently facing criminal accusations— reveal that the drug cartels bribed them while they had access to sensitive information from the U.S. government.
Podcast: Dirty DEA. Episode 5, USA v. García Luna
In this season finale, María and Peniley pose one last question: Was García Luna a mastermind triple agent, or is there a systemic issue fostering corruption in the DEA? To find out, we zoom into the DEA’s role in the drug war and talk to an ex-DEA special agent and whistleblower. We also take a moment to remember the victims of the failed “war on drugs” and highlight their mothers’ efforts toward accountability and healing. Finally, Maria and Peniley take one more trip where they give us a final revelation – this time to the place where García Luna spends his days awaiting his day in court.
Podcast: Trial Time. Extra Episode, USA v. García Luna
The trial of Genaro García Luna starts January 17, and Maria and Peniley are back in the studio to explain everything you need to know before the trial begins. The prosecution and defense teams are already battling over how García Luna will be presented to the jury. Will the defense be allowed to exhibit evidence of his close relationship with the U.S. authorities? Will García Luna’s wealth in Miami be part of the New York case? To find out, follow Maria and Peniley as they cover the trial together. As usual, they’ll do it their style: toasting with tequila.
Podcast: A Story of Betrayal. Episode 6, USA v. García Luna
After 10 years of investigating Genaro García Luna, Peniley is now on the ground in Brooklyn with Maria, reporting on his trial. He is accused of working a second, dirty job for the Sinaloa Cartel, besides his role as a top officer for the Mexican government. Each morning, Futuro Investigates heads to the courthouse to see the once “untouchable” cop face the 12 jurors who will decide his fate. In this episode, we meet the jury members, the cartel witnesses, the protestors, and prosecutors arguing the former Mexican hero is now starring in a story of betrayal.
Podcast: Party’s Canceled. Episode 7, USA v. García Luna
Tirso ‘El Futbolista’ Martinez, is the second witness to testify against Genaro García Luna. El Futbolista was a major cocaine distributor for El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel in the U.S. While listening to his testimony, Peniley learns the address of the warehouse in Brooklyn that used to serve as the cartel’s front. She goes there. In this episode, Peniley and Maria connect García Luna’s and El Chapo’s trials. They learn why a witness said García Luna was the Sinaloa cartel’s “best investment.” Once, he – allegedly – even warned a witness that the DEA was planning to crash their Christmas party.
Podcast: One Bad Bunny. Episode 8, USA v. García Luna
In 2007, more than 23 tons of cocaine belonging to the Sinaloa cartel were found in the Mexican port of Manzanillo. Mexico and the U.S. celebrated it as the biggest drug bust in Mexican history to date. Fifteen years later, Genaro García Luna is accused of helping the cartel avoid a $50 million “fine” in connection to that bust. Now, Peniley and Maria break down how the U.S. and García Luna worked together to make it happen. And they couldn’t have done it without Harold ‘El Conejo’ Poveda, the man who cried on the witness stand – and made the international drug trade go round.
Podcast: The DEA Tapes. Episode 9, USA v. García Luna
The trial against Genaro García Luna is reaching its end—which means Peniley is exhausted and Maria has to pull her out of bed just to make it to court! This week, Jesús ‘El Rey’ Zambada, the Sinaloa cartel’s former top boss, testified that he personally delivered bribes to García Luna. In defense of her husband, García Luna’s wife took the stand. Then, Peniley does some-–more—digging and gets a source, a former senior security official, who speaks for the first time on the record about alleged secret tapes he heard at a DEA facility of Garcia Luna. Now, the jury is out — literally.
Podcast: Guilty. Episode 10, USA v. García Luna
After six weeks of attending the trial and more than 10 years investigating Genaro García Luna, Peniley and Maria sat arm in arm in court with other reporters as they braced themselves for the verdict. And, just as Peniley’s reporting found —the highest former Mexican government official to ever face trial in the U.S.— is guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine to the U.S., among other charges. In this episode, Peniley and Maria share the key moments from Garcia Luna’s wife’s testimony, and the closing arguments that led to the jury’s decision. They also interview Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández, who was forced to leave Mexico after reporting on García Luna while he was still in power.
Podcast: An Unwinnable War. Episode 11, USA v. García Luna
Genaro García Luna’s trial is over, but Maria and Peniley’s investigative work is not. In this episode, they learn that a U.S. senator has requested the DEA and the FBI information on García Luna, including the names of the U.S. officials who vetted him. We listen to some of our series’ protagonists react to the guilty verdict, and Peniley digs into what’s next for García Luna. Finally, our hosts reflect on why the war on drugs was always unwinnable, and they get into some chisme, going behind the scenes of this series.