Mexico’s former top cop — currently on trial in Brooklyn federal court for allegedly helping some of the world’s most brutal drug kingpins — is allegedly a devotee of a Mexican death cult and used to worship at a secret altar in his government office, according to reports.
Genaro García Luna, 54, is accused of taking millions in bribes to protect some of the biggest cartels in Mexico. Among the charges against him is helping Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel evade authorities and smuggle cocaine and other illicit drugs into the US when García Luna was head of Mexico’s federal police.
García Luna led Mexico’s Federal Investigative Agency from 2001 to 2005, and was named the secretary of public security in 2006.
During those years, he allegedly kept an altar to Santa Muerte — a folk saint that is a cross between the Grim Reaper and the Virgin of Guadeloupe — in his office at federal police headquarters in Mexico City, according to reports.
“He had an altar in his office even after dozens were destroyed as part of [Felipe] Calderone’s fight against the narcos,” writes Argentine reporter Olga Wornat in her 2020 book “Felipe, the Dark One,” which chronicles corruption in the administration of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón — García Luna’s former boss — who ruled Mexico between 2006 and 2012.
“The altar of the Angel of Santa Muerte, located in the offices of the SSP [Secretariat of Public Security] showed the splendor of the power of García Luna,” writes Mexican reporter Francisco Cruz in his 2020 book, “García Luna: The Lord of Death.”
The altars were prohibited for García Luna’s subordinates because the Santa Muerte cult is associated with drug traffickers who often pray to the saint and leave offerings of cash and tequila shots in order to ensure success with their drug operations.
“Santa Muerte is the most popular icon used by the Mexican drug cartels,” said Robert Almonte, a Texas-based security consultant and former El Paso cop who is currently writing a book about the Santa Muerte cult. He has visited dozens of temples and shrines to the folk saint throughout Mexico and the US.
“[García Luna] made it look like he was doing his part by helping the government destroy the altars to Santa Muerte, but in reality he is just a thug like the other members of the Mexican cartels,” Almonte told The Post.
The Santa Muerte movement, which began in the 18th century among native groups near Mexico City, is growing, with estimates of up to 12 million devotees in Mexico and, now, parts of the US. American law enforcement officials struggling under the recent wave of illegal migrant crossings are increasingly documenting altars to the macabre saint — and another, Jesus Malverde — in stash houses in US border communities where Mexican drug cartel members often hold migrants for ransom, Almonte said.
Born in Xochimilco, a gritty working class neighborhood of Mexico City, Garcia Luna reportedly became involved with the Santa Muerte cult when he was still a child.
The Catholic Church has condemned Santa Muerte worship as “blasphemous and Satanic.” When Pope Francis visited Mexico for the first time in 2016, he condemned the cult, which is one of the fastest growing new “religious” movements in the world, according to the Catholic Herald.
García Luna’s trial continues Monday.