Thursday, April 14, 2011

Interview with Juárez Mayor Héctor "Teto" Murguía

Julian Aguilar
The Texas Tribune
When Héctor "Teto" Murguía Lardizábal was sworn into office in October to lead the embattled Ciudad Juárez, many pondered why the businessman, who was at the helm of that city's government from 2004 to 2007, wanted to again assume the city's leadership, this time during one of its most violent episodes in history.

Murguía said it was his love for his hometown and his belief that he could positively affect one of the world's most violent cities. Ciudad Juárez has witnessed more than 8,150 murders since 2008.

The businessman hasn't had an easy run of it so far.

The murders - a byproduct of a deadly war between the rival Sinaloa and Juárez cartels and the street gangs they employ - continue unabated and his recently appointed police chief, retired Lt. Col. Julián Leyzaola, has come under fire for his police force's alleged involvement in the kidnappings of four men in Juárez just last month.

Leyzaola was heralded by some as the savior of crime-ridden Tijuana, where he served before his appointment in Ciudad Juárez, and was credited for turning the city around.

Murguía made his way to Austin on Monday to be officially recognized by the Texas House and Senate through Senate Resolution 745, authored by state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso.

The resolution, among other things, "extend[s] to him and the citizens of Ciudad Juárez sincere best wishes for their continued development of binational economic and cultural ties, as well as for their future peace and prosperity."

Murguía, or "Teto," as he's known, sat down with The Texas Tribune before his reception to discuss why he thinks Juárez isn't the most violent city in Mexico, why he thinks negotiating with cartels (as some Mexicans have proposed) would be giving in to the criminals' demands and why, despite a cartel presence there, there aren't shootouts in the streets of El Paso.

He also responded to allegations that he isn't fighting organized crime but is instead involved in it and addressed the accusations made by his predecessor, José Reyes Ferriz, that many of the problems facing Juárez are a result of Murguía's former police chief, Saulo Reyes Gamboa, being arrested in El Paso shortly after he left office in 2007. Despite the blame game, Reyes Ferriz endorsed Murguía last year and told the Tribune that Murguía couldn't have known the choice was a bad one.

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