August 25, 2006

Tijuana: Business Leaders Call for Military Intervention

Frustrated by continued violence, prominent business leaders in Tijuana are urging the Mexican army to assume a bigger crime-fighting role. According to Daniel Romero

Mejia, the president of Tijuana’s Business Coordinating Council (CEE), local, state and federal police forces are too hamstrung by limited resources to effectively fight public insecurity and organized crime. Romero’s contentions contradict recent statements by the federal Ministry of Public Security (SSP) and the Federal Office of the Attorney General (PGR) that emphasized crime-fighting progress in Tijuana and Baja California, including the recent detention of Javier Arellano Felix, a leading member of the Tijuana Cartel, by US law enforcement personnel.

In a report made public last week, the SSP said more than 90 members of kidnapping rings, mainly consisting of current or former police officers, have been arrested since

the implementation of Operation Safe Mexico in June 2005. In a separate statement also issued last week, the PGR said 120 members of the Tijuana Cartel have been arrested during the Fox Administration. The PGR added that defendants in 26 cases were sentenced to 20 years or more in prison.

Nonetheless, the CCE’s Romero and other business leaders contend that Mexican law enforcement authorities are increasingly hard-pressed and surpassed by criminal violence. “(Police) have done their intelligence and investigative work,” Romero insisted, “(but) we haven’t seen the expected results, given that kidnappings, forced disappearances and shoot-outs in broad daylight are daily news.”

In another spate of violence, two young men were shot to death in one of Tijuana’s subdivisions early in the morning of Saturday, August 19. One of the victims, 25-year-old

Carlos Gualberto Ontiveros Aragon, worked as a bodyguard for the chief of the internal affairs division of the Baja California Office of the Attorney General.

In an effort to curb the border city’s high rate of violent crime, business leaders from the CCE, Chamber of Commerce and other private sector organizations have requested extra help from Mexican President Vicente Fox at meetings in May 2005 and again last week. Some now clamor for the Mexican army to step in and take control Tijuana’s security situation. 

While praising the arrest of Arellano Felix, many Mexican and US observers warn that the cartel figure’s detention could actually trigger an escalation of violence as wannabes and rivals duke it out for control of the valuable Tijuana “plaza.” Laura Freeman, a Mexico program associate for the non-profit Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), cautioned against relying on “quick fix” solutions to organized criminal activity like deploying more Mexican soldiers in the anti-drug war. 

In a new WOLA report on drug-related violence and corruption in Mexico, Freeman criticized shows of force like the current Operation Safe Mexico as ultimately falling far short of suppressing violence, corruption and drug trafficking. “A massive show of force does not reduce trafficking or the crime and corruption that accompany it,”

Freeman said. “These vicious cycles of violence can best be quelled by reducing drug demand in the United States and undertaking serious police and justice reform in Mexico over the long term.” 

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico.

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