Thursday, June 9, 2011

Juarez Police Chief Promises Results in Six Months

After serving for only three months, Ciudad Juarez’s chief of police Julian Leyzaola has vowed to restore peace to the city by December. In an interview with the Associated Press, he claimed that reducing crime and cleaning up the police forces in Juarez will be easier than in Tijuana, where he spent the last three years in the same position.

Although Leyzaola  is widely credited for reducing crime in Tijuana, some have argued that the crime reduction in that city was due more to under-reporting of crime and a few successful high-level captures than to his policies. According to Mexican statistician Diego Valle, Tijuana may not even be any less violent than before.

Some are also doubtful about the effect that his management will have on security in Juarez. As InSight’s Patrick Corcoran notes, although the city’s murder rate has been dropping, it began its decline in late 2010, months before he took office.

Leyzaola, a retired army colonel, has something of a mixed legacy, with his supporters praising his “get tough” approach to the cartels, and detractors denouncing him as a strongman whose heavy-handed tactics have violated human rights.

As La Jornada reported in August 2010, the Baja California state human rights ombudsman issued a report calling for an official inquiry into claims that Leyzaola tortured and beat suspected dirty cops during his famed police purge in Tijuana. According to a November AP article, a police officer who was charged with corruption but was later acquitted alleged that the police chief placed a plastic bag over his mouth while his eyes were covered with duct tape during interrogation, and that he was punched in the stomach several times. As a result of these investigations, 600 police officers were relieved of their duty.

Now, it seems that he has started a similar purge in Juarez.  So far 160 officers have resigned, been fired or arrested in the city, and Leyzaola told AP that he predicts 400 more officers will be dismissed this year. In the end, even if the decrease in violence in Tijuana is due to his influence, it’s worth questioning if the increase in security came at the expense of responsible policing, and whether the results are worth repeating in Juarez.

News Briefs
  • The Nation finally published its much-awaited story on WikiLeaks revelations concerning the U.S. State Department’s support for low wages in Haiti’s assembly zones. When Haiti’s Parliament voted in mid-2009 to raise its minimum wage from 24 to 61 cents an hour ($5 a day), cables reveal that U.S. diplomats at first pressured president Rene Preval to abandon the effort, and then to create an exception for textile companies. Although the difference seems outrageously insignificant to many in the U.S., Adam Davidson at NPR’s Planet Money argues that the raise could potentially have undermined Haiti’s competitiveness. However, the Nation alleges that the wage hike actually had support from a majority of the Haitian business community, who based this on the need to keep up with rising inflation and food prices, as well as on reports that their main competitors in the garment industry –Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic– were on the verge of increasing wages as well. According to the magazine, the only strong opposition to the measure came from Haiti’s “tiny assembly zone elite,” due to their connections with major U.S. textile companies. To coincide with the article, WikiLeaks released all of the associated cables yesterday, which can be viewed here.
  • According to Honduras’ La Tribuna, president Porfirio Lobo has endorsed a constitutional amendment allowing re-election in his country. However, he said he would not take advantage of this reform, claiming that his "social contract" with the Honduran people started will end as promised in 2014.
  • The New York Times reports that Brazil’s President Rousseff is struggling to overcome the loss of her most powerful minister, Antonio Palocci. Because of the drawn-out nature of Palocci's scandal, many in the country perceive Rousseff’s belated reaction as too passive, which the Times suggests could hurt her popularity. Rising inflation, as well as a combative relationship with the Brazilian congress, also seem to be tying her down politically. Ultimately it looks as though the future of her administration rests on her capacity to forge new relationships with Brazilian legislators. Reuters quotes Senate President Jose Sarney, who claims that Rousseff will now have to "establish a new way of governing."
  • According to the L.A. Times, two government reports claim that despite spending billions of dollars annually, U.S. efforts have failed to reduce drug production or smuggling in Latin America. The reports specifically single out the use of contractors as wasteful and ineffective.
  • As the AP reports, Salvadoran president Mauricio Funes called on other Latin American nations to initiate a hemisphere-wide police anti-corruption effort at the summit of the American Police Community (AMERIPOL).
  • In Peru, Humala has begun reaching out to the private sector in a bid to calm some of this week’s market turbulence. According to Peru 21, the president-elect has named a “transition team” to focus on his shift into office in July. The list includes several moderate and well-known economists and security experts. Furthermore, as the AP reports, Humala has said he will emphasize development through the formation of public-private partnerships, and said he would negotiate a tax on windfall profits within the country’s lucrative mining industry instead of unilaterally forcing them to pay. And in an utterly unsurprising development, La Republica reports that for Humala, freeing disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori is “not on the agenda.”
  • El Tiempo reports on the prospect for closer bilateral relations between Peru and Colombia, especially regarding trade and defense.
  • According to Mexico’s El Universal, Mexican central bank director Agustin Carstens has received the backing of twelve Latin American countries in his bid to become the director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The Latin Americanist, in an insightful analysis, claims that the bloc has the potential to rival European support for French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.
  • The Christian Science Monitor reports on rumors of a narco-fosas located near a farm outside Houston, Texas. Apparently a "psychic" claimed was the scene of a grisly mass murder, and led a team of policemen, reporters and news helicopters to the scene, only to find out that the rumors were entirely unfounded. Meanwhile, Cronica del Hoy reports on the adjusted body count of Mexico’s most recent naro-fosas, which authorities say has risen to 430.
  • Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa met earlier this week and released a joint statement in which they both argued against an increase in oil production by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Venezuela and Ecuador are members. As the Washington Post reports, They both scored a victory at an OPEC summit in Vienna yesterday, when a proposal  by Persian Gulf nations to raise production was shot down