The new Mexican President has reportedly dispatched more than 3,000 troops and federal police into Tijuana to try controlling the chaotic situation in the city along the US border. Fox News reported that the new Secretary of the Ministry of the Interior, Francisco Ramirez Acuña, told a news conference on Tuesday: "We will carry out all the necessary actions to retake every region of national territory… We will not allow any state to be a hostage of drug traffickers or organized crime."
He referred to the new action that started on Tuesday, to control violence that has stemmed from drug wars and people-traffic across the border in and around Tijuana. The new President – Felipe Calderon – also acted in his home state of Michoacan, where he dispatched 7,000 federal troops to control violence stemming from organized crime and kidnappings immediately on taking office. Calderon had promised decisive action to counter escalating violence. Once the brouhaha of the recent election was over and he donned his Presidential sash, he began to do what he had promised to do.
The Tijuana forces are said to include close to 3,000 troops, over 500 federal police, 28 boats, 21 planes and 9 helicopters. Secretary Acuña listed these assets in his statements to the press. The intention is to create checkpoints at one of the busiest border crossings in the world, and try to chase smugglers of all manner of contraband. Primarily the emphasis is said to be on controlling the crossing of cocaine from Columbia as well as marijuana and methamphetamines that are locally produced. Whether it will succeed or not remains to be seen.
Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon welcomed the invasion: "I hope this will make Tijuana a safer place." His city saw 300 killings last year. The worst case: three police and one civilian were abducted from the nearby tourist town Rosarito, with their severed heads dumped on a Tijuana beach. These crimes are thought to result from turf battles between rival drug gangs.
Calderon, in his New Year's address to the nation, said: "The operations will allow us to re-establish the minimal security conditions in different points of Mexico so we can recover, little by little, our streets, our parks and our schools."
The on-line edition of Frontera notes that the federal operation was "about time.” According the P.R.I. government, they have been asking for federal help for the last 10 years. The Mexican government is, however, trying to do what the American government has wanted it to do – without the need of a $2 billion border wall proposed by President Bush.
What does all this mean for visitors to the Tijuana area at the moment? Probably not much. The US Consulate's site does not mention the federal "invasion" or the crime wave. It does have a link to the Rosarito tourism site: "Welcome to the official Rosarito Beach Website. You have discovered a truly magical world just 20 scenic miles south from the U.S. border." It does not offer a look at any severed heads.Powered by Sidelines