Here is an excerpt from Sandra Dibble's article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
To his many admirers, Tijuana’s public safety chief has been a key player in the city’s emergence from its darkest days of kidnappings, drug violence and widespread police corruption. Supporters say Julian Leyzaola’s efforts have helped create a renewed sense of public security, and they hope it will pave the way for a much-needed economic recovery by drawing new investment and encouraging many Americans who were driven away by fears of crime to return. Amid the choruses of praise, accusations have emerged from suspects who said Leyzaola tortured them to extract false confessions. Human rights groups have taken up their cause and are calling for the chief’s removal, saying such actions overshadow any accomplishments... Leyzaola’s hands-on style has won him supporters on both sides of the border, and U.S. agencies paid homage to his efforts last week at a ceremony in Tijuana... For many Tijuana residents, the drop in high-profile violence such as decapitations, hangings and public shootouts among rival gangs is cause for celebration, no matter what the reason. Recent months have seen the opening of new restaurants and the rebirth of a night life in the city... Crime statistics show a mixed picture, said Juan Manuel Hernandez, president of the Tijuana business group Coparmex. Car thefts, burglaries and kidnappings went down while homicides and robberies rose between 2008 and July of this year, according to a Coparmex study. A state government report that compares crime in the first eight months of 2009 with the same period this year shows an overall drop of 12 percent for common offenses in the city, but notes an increase in violent crime... Yet the fact that Tijuana’s rate of violence remains far lower than that of Mexican cities on the Texas border, such as Ciudad Juarez, may have more to do with the dynamics of drug groups than the efforts of law enforcement." Link to Full Article
Analysis: So this story brings us to an Abu Ghraib-style debate over appropriate law enforcement tactics in Mexico. It's true that for the past eight months or so, things have been remarkably quiet in Tijuana; or just so loud in Ciudad Juárez that Tijuana is being drowned out. Of course, that begs the question if the newfound calm is a result of law enforcement efforts or the shifting dynamics of DTOs, as David Shirk from the University of San Diego suggests. There's no reason it can't be a bit of both.
If you remember, Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental was captured earlier this year (in January, I believe) and his right hand man, Raydel "El Muletas" López Uriarte, and brother Carlos were also arrested. I thought for sure that things were going to heat up after that, as the head of the AFO - Fernando Sanchez Arellano - made a play to get his territory back from the Sinaloa Federation's proxy group. Oddly enough, Tijuana has stayed mostly out of the news since those arrests, which is a good thing all around.
Or is it? Is Leyzaola being too heavy handed and extracting false confessions under duress? Or are criminals just trying to make him look bad? Either is possible, and it's hard to believe a drug trafficker who is likely going to jail for a while. And maybe that's part of the problem. If Leyzaola and his people are engaging in abusive tactics, they're probably banking on the fact no one is really going to believe the narco who's beat up and tortured his fair share of people.
Does that make it right? It depends on whom you ask. We get pretty bent out of shape here in the US when our troops or police officers get too heavy-handed with people, no matter how evil they are. In Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, the attitude towards civil rights - and their suspension during times of domestic turmoil - is often different than it is here. Considering what the Mexican people have been through in the last decade, I'm going to presume that they would find Leyzaola's behavior - if those accusations are accurate - perfectly acceptable and appropriate. At least someone is getting things done in Tijuana, and roughing up some people may be the price that has to be paid for peace.
I'm sure there's some reader out there who's a member of the ACLU or something and screaming at the screen right now. Just remember, Mexico isn't the United States, and the mayor and residents of Tijuana have likely reached that point of "desperate times call for desperate measures." God knows how many thousands of people are having their civil rights violated every day by brutal thugs who don't give a crap if you don't feel safe enough to vote, go food shopping, or take your kids to school.
I do feel this is another great topic for debate. What do YOU think? Is it time for Mexican law enforcement to take things up a notch in order to get the narcos to pay attention? Is the violation of suspected drug traffickers' civil rights too steep a price to pay, no matter what the results?