The mayor of the Mexican border city of Tijuana, Jorge Hank Rhon, announced over the weekend that the entire municipal police force is to be investigated for involvement in the drug trade. The city is home to the Arellano Felix drug trafficking organization, one of the most powerful in Mexico. The group is locked in a bloody battle with the competing "Juarez cartel," led by the criminal heirs of the legendary Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as the "Lord of the Skies" before his death in 1997. Dozens of people have been killed this year in Tijuana in battles between the rival groups.
After that incident, Tijuana officials accused federal law enforcement officials of not doing enough to help fight the traffickers, which prompted an unusually testy response from the federal attorney general's office. In a communiqué issued in late September, the office accused Mayor Rhon and Tijuana secretary of public safety Luis Javier Algorri Franco of "complacency or direct complicity" with the drug traffic.
Rhon was also facing pressure from powerful Tijuana business interests worried that the corruption and violence could affect their bottom lines. The major business group in the city, the Entrepreneurial Coordinating Council, had announced last month it was boycotting public functions until local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies began working together, and last week, it threatened to move businesses from the city unless something was done.
That is apparently what prompted Rhon's weekend call for a mass investigation of the municipal police. While police corruption in Tijuana has been endemic for years -- local police report 66 of their own arrested in the past six months -- it is the open political spat between Rhon and Mexico City that greased the wheels for the investigation and the pressure from business that made it happen.
"Everyone from the policeman on the beat to the state police superintendent will be subject to this investigation," Rhon told a weekend press conference.
"We haven't waited for anyone to come from outside to help us with the theme of corruption," Algorri said in the weekend press conference announcing the mass investigation of Tijuana's 2,300 police. Algorri added that it was unfair to single out the city police. "The problem of corruption in police agencies is a reality, and all of the police agencies have problems with corruption," he said.