In Mexico, as in the United States, suspects have the right to ask for a lawyer. Yet many in Mexico never get legal advice. Instead they tell police things like, “I killed 600 people,” whether it’s true or not.
Which is exactly what Garcia did in his 15 minutes of fame. And he is not alone.
Though fishy admissions of guilt, coerced and otherwise, have been a fixture of Mexico’s troubled judicial system for decades, the era of the videotaped confession has arrived.
In recent months, El Chango admitted he was the leader of the La Familia cartel; El Pajaro said on camera that he was responsible for a deadly grenade attack; El Mamito agreed that he was the owner of five “narco tanks.”
These sensational videotaped confessions have become the latest tactic employed by media-savvy officials trying to convince a skeptical electorate that authorities are not just arresting criminals, but criminals guilty of the crimes of which they are accused.
“This is for the authorities, who want to show they are working hard and defeating the criminals. It is a publicity stunt,” said Raul Cardenas Rioseco, a lawyer who defended the brother of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari against corruption charges.
“These kinds of declarations have absolutely no value in court,” said John Ackerman, a professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
But they make for mesmerizing TV.
Five days after Garcia was arrested, the attorney general for the state of Mexico, Alfredo Castillo, released a video clip of the suspect’s interrogation.
Prosecutor: “How many executions have you ordered?”
Garcia: “Ordered? I believe more than 300 executions.”
Prosecutor: “And how many have you done?”
Garcia: “Another 300, more or less, I have done with my own hands, around 300.”
Prosecutor: “And what did you use to cut off their heads?”
Garcia: “Knives and chain saws.”
During the exchange, Garcia appears relaxed and confident. He is a handsome 36-year-old, with thick, wavy hair, bright white teeth and that just-barely-there beard popular with male models.
His nickname is “El Compayito,” a hand puppet on television. His gang — called “the hand with eyes,” a reference to the same character — is allegedly vying for control of drug trafficking and distribution in and around Mexico City.
“I was trained to kill,” Garcia said in the video, with a shrug.
Castillo said that Garcia deserted from the Mexican marines and that he trained in explosives and worked as a bodyguard for major cartel capos, including Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez, a top assassin for the Beltran Leyva organization who was arrested last year.