Tijuana’s Controversial Public Safety Secretary Dismissed

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Julian Leyzaola, Tijuana’s outgoing Secretary of Public Safety, has been dismissed of his duties as a result of human rights concerns, reports El Universal.

Leyzaola, who has held his post since 2008, carries a mixed legacy, with his supporters praising his “get tough” approach to the cartels in the region, and detractors denouncing him as a strongman whose heavy-handed tactics have violated basic civil liberties. Despite the criticism, one thing is clear: Tijuana under Leyzaola has experienced a dramatic decrease in crime.

Leyzaola began his campaign with a series of sweeping reforms, replacing career police officers with former military men and ramping up investigations of corrupt cops in his department.  Partially as a result of his efforts, President Felipe Calderón declared Tijuana a “success story” last month, citing decreased levels of violence.  

However, not everyone in the Mexican government views Leyzaola so positively.  In August of this year the Mexican human rights ombudsman, Heriberto Garcia, issued a report charging that Leyzaola tortured and beat suspected cop killers during investigations. Jorge Sanchez, a police officer who charged with corruption but was later acquitted, is cited in a recent Miami Herald article as saying that a plastic bag was placed over his mouth while his eyes were covered with tape during investigations, and that he was punched in the stomach several times.  As a result of these allegations, Leyzaola will step down, and will be replaced by Gustavo Huerta, his top deputy.

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