U.S. authorities honor Tijuana's top cop for driving down border crime
U.S. border authorities paid a highly-publicized visit to Tijuana on Monday to shower accolades on the city’s top cop, Julian Leyzaola. It was billed as a ceremony of recognition for Leyzaola’s work with U.S. agencies. He’s helped drive crime rates down 52% along the San Diego-Tijuana border, the U.S. Border Patrol said. And the FBI said Leyzaola’s cops have captured record numbers of U.S. fugitives.
But the timing of the event was curious. Leyzaola’s future remains in doubt, as reported last month in an article in the Los Angeles Times. Tijuana’s mayor-elect Carlos Bustamante, scheduled to take office in December, has yet to say whether he will extend Leyzaola’s tenure.
To many observers, all the speeches and plaques of recognition awarded to Leyzaola by the representatives of U.S. agencies seemed designed to pressure Bustamante to keep him as secretary of public security. Bustamante didn’t’ attend the event, but he most surely heard about it. Tijuana’s cultural center was packed with hundreds of Leyzaola supporters, including influential business and civic leaders, and a media swarm provided mostly fawning coverage of the popular lawman’s emotional speech.
The Tijuana reporters, taking advantage of the rare opportunity to interview a U.S. federal agent, cornered the FBI’s international liaison officer, Mike Eckel. He said the security situation improved dramatically when Leyzaola took over as chief nearly three years ago. “In the past, we didn’t have as much trust as we do now…. The changes that have occurred here are impressive and enormous.”
-- Richard Marosi
Photo: Tijuana's secretary of public safety, Julian Leyzaola, in November 2009. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times