Luis Cárdenas Palomino, one of García Luna’s closest police chiefs, detained for torture

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Luis Cárdenas Palomino, considered the right hand of former Mexican Security Secretary Genaro García Luna, has been arrested early this Monday in the State of Mexico, as reported by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR). The former head of the Regional Security Division of the Federal Police in the Government of Felipe Calderón has been wanted since September last year, when a judge issued an arrest warrant for allegedly ordering and participating in the torture of “alleged kidnapped” in 2012. The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has declared during his morning conference that the arrest has been achieved because “there is no longer impunity” in the country.

Far has been the image of that Cárdenas Palomino who used to give press conferences with his impeccable uniform. The photograph released by the FGR on Monday shows the former official, who had been a fugitive for nine months, with long, disheveled hair and a messy beard. García Luna’s former collaborator was arrested in a residential subdivision in Nacaupan, a municipality 13 kilometers from the capital. Agents from the Secretariat of the Navy, the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection and the National Intelligence Center participated in the operation, according to the official statement. Cárdenas Palomino is accused along with 12 other policemen of ordering and participating in the torture of four people, including Israel Vallarta’s brother and a nephew, who were forced to sign confessions in which they agreed to belong to a gang of kidnappers known as Los Zodiaco.

Cárdenas Palomino began working in the security forces in 1989, at the Center for Research and National Security (Cisen). There he met Genaro García Luna, the great strategist of the Mexican war on drugs who was arrested in the United States in 2019 and faces five charges for alleged links to organized crime. Since the 1990s, Cárdenas Palomino’s career rose in the police structure until in 2006 he became in charge of the Federal Investigation Agency and in 2010, head of the Regional Security Division of the Federal Police of Mexico. Along the way, he also held the position of head of the kidnapping group of the former Attorney General’s Office during Calderón’s presidency.

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The detainee played a crucial role in the failed policy designed by Calderón’s drug czar, who now faces the weight of the law in the United States. García Luna faces a life sentence if the five crimes against him are proven: lying to the US authorities, heading a criminal enterprise with five violations of the narcotics law, and conspiring to possess, distribute and import cocaine into the United States. For the same investigation, an arrest warrant was issued in the Federal Court of the Eastern District of New York against Cárdenas Palomino, for his alleged protection of the Sinaloa Cartel in alliance with the former Secretary of Security.

Mario Vallarta, Israel’s brother, and Sergio Cortes Vallarta, their nephew, were tortured along with two other men in a case presented by the authorities and broadcast on Mexican television. It was a video of the alleged arrest of the band Los Zodiaco, among which were Israel Vallarta and his girlfriend, the French Florence Cassez. The images were nothing more than a montage that ended up causing a diplomatic conflict and a controversy around the police, but the torture was real. According to the judge who signed the arrest warrant, there are elements to suppose that Cárdenas Palomino authorized electric shocks to be applied to the detainees and suffocated with plastic bags to force them to plead guilty. The former police command has now been brought to justice.

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