Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Crime Fighter Draws Plaudits and Scrutiny

The New York Times
"You can't apply a strategy from a desk. You have to apply it in the street." - Julián Leyzaola, Chief of Police in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

JUST a few days into his new job as the police chief here in Mexico’s longtime murder capital, Julián Leyzaola said, he received a phone call from the boss of a crime syndicate named La Linea. Mr. Leyzaola had been threatened before, quite often, in his last job as the head of public security in Tijuana.

But this call was different. It came from a former police officer, who called the chief’s cellphone to suggest a partnership. “It’s Diego,” said the crime boss, José Antonio Acosta Hernández. “I’m at your service.”

Chief Leyzaola, 51, a trim former military officer with a flair for drama, smiled at the recollection. The call came in March. In July, he arrested El Diego and his main collaborators, including several police officers. “I don’t dialogue with delinquents,” he said.

But ever since that victory over La Linea, Chief Leyzaola — already Mexico’s most renowned and controversial policeman — has been under a spotlight that keeps getting hotter. Positive and negative developments have intertwined: violence has declined in Juárez, with murders down by around a third over the last year; at the same time, complaints of human rights abuses by the police have increased, including some against the chief himself; and now that La Linea is gone, one of its rivals, the Sinaloa cartel, has become more powerful.

This appears to be the Leyzaola package. A similar dynamic played out during his time in Tijuana from 2008 through 2010, and just as residents there are still trying to make sense of his approach, the people of Juárez are also now scratching their heads with cautious awe.

“We’re seeing the results we asked for,” said Federico Ziga, president of the Ciudad Juárez restaurant association. “Not everyone agrees on the cause, but the results are there.”

IN a wide-ranging interview at his office here, Chief Leyzaola said he had long aimed to destroy the “narco dream” by showing that the authorities could take away “their guns, their cars, their drugs, their money.” Like a boxer or wrestler, he treats his tough-guy image as a necessary tactic. In Tijuana, he punched a dead cartel gunman in the face as bystanders watched. There and here, he insists on calling criminals “mugrosos,” or slimeballs.

“You can’t apply a strategy from a desk,” he said, sitting behind a desk with just a few papers and a fruit smoothie. “You have to apply it in the street.”

Specifically, he says he has calmed Juárez by dividing the city into sectors and locking down troubled areas, starting with the central business district where La Linea was based. For months at a time, he said, he deployed the police to stop and question everyone going in and out of certain neighborhoods.

Critics contend that while the effort destroyed La Linea, an especially violent gang implicated in the 2010 massacre of teenagers at a house party and the killing of a United States Consulate worker, it has also led to unjustified arrests for anyone young or poor who looks like trouble.

“It’s a systemic violation of human rights,” said Gustavo de la Rosa, a Chihuahua State human rights investigator. “More than 5,000 illegal detentions were reported in the months of October and November.”

Chief Leyzaola has also been accused of personally beating prison inmates with a two-by-four after a riot at the local jail in July. An American who has since been released said he saw the chief hitting inmates.

More recently, two other prisoners accused the chief and seven other officers of killing a friend after the three men were arrested together in November.

Though his office did not respond to requests for comment on these specific beating and homicide allegations, Chief Leyzaola has not denied using arrests and “intense, harassing patrols” to break the link between petty criminals and organized crime. Young people, he said, must understand the consequences of claiming to be a big shot.

Many residents do not seem to mind. They had been complaining for years about local thugs taking advantage of anarchy and fear to extort their neighbors. Even human rights advocates like Mr. de la Rosa have acknowledged that there are “pervasive interests” determined to take down Chief Leyzaola, who survived his latest assassination attempt in June.
YET, his legal problems continue to pile up. Mr. Leyzaola is now scheduled to appear before a judge to address allegations tied to his time in Tijuana. A recent report from the Human Rights Commission there argued that he and several subordinates tortured four police officers suspected of corruption in 2010. An earlier report linked him to the deaths of five people accused of killing police officers in 2009.

He has denied those allegations, insisting that the claims are an effort to smear him. He also denies having anything to do with the case of four young men here in Juárez who were found dead in a tunnel a few weeks after witnesses saw them detained by the police on March 26.

“I had only 10 days on the job when this started,” he said. “What did we do in this case? I was the one who insisted that those responsible are punished.”

Chief Leyzaola (who failed to mention that only a few of the 15 officers accused in that case have been arrested) says he is mainly struggling with a young and ill-equipped police force. He has already fired about 200 officers, and he said more were likely to be purged. In addition to the challenge of recruiting — the department now has about 2,300 officers, he said, down from 3,000 a few years ago — he highlighted the challenge of training the ones he hires: “About 1,800 of the 2,300 officers have no more than two years of service.”

Many say they are inspired by their boss. Inside the police station lobby, they point proudly to a wall of newspaper clippings on arrests. Such strong morale is certainly a rarity in many Mexican police departments. But experts say that Chief Leyzaola has yet to grasp the limits of his show-how-tough-we-are approach.

“Policing is not about personalities — it’s about procedures and institutions,” said David A. Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “When Leyzaola is gone, as he inevitably will be at some point, what will be left behind? That’s the key question.”

Transparent processes for investigations and promotions matter more than tough talk or even high profile arrests, experts say. And while crime is down in both Tijuana and Juárez, it is not clear how much this has to do with Chief Leyzaola. Mr. Shirk said it likely had more to do with cartel dynamics — a truce or shift in power, with one group gaining an overwhelming edge. Some Sinaloa cartel members on trial in the United States have said they tried to work with Mexican and American authorities so they could defeat La Linea.

Mr. de la Rosa added that the drop in crime might also just be exhaustion. Thousands of presumed cartel hired killers have died here over the past few years.

But no matter what the cause, or the fallout, Chief Leyzaola seems unlikely to play a role any different from what he knows.

“I’m a soldier; I’m a nationalist,” he said, leaning forward in his chair, as if addressing a television camera. “I have one objective: to fight delinquency.”


  1. I can only say that I'm glad he is not a corrupted cop.
    Keep up the good work Leyzaola.

  2. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You will never please everyone and as long as the ones being terrorized are the bad guys and not the good people I'm ok with that too.

  3. This is the kind of man,who is needed.Of course it is not going to be pretty.But of course the whining idiots,who sit behind a desk,dreaming about some kind of idealistic human utopia,where we all love one another,"and even murderers and rapists have human rights"will continue to bleat like a sheep.Does a human being ever forfeit those rights?When does a community say enough is enough?I believe that at some point a line has to be drawn,killers,rapists,are arrested,serve a sentence and are back on the street.Have they learned any kind of lesson?No.The kind of criminality i am talking about is beyond the pale of any human decency,everyone here knows what we are talking about.Violence obviously works,some of us know this,but a lot of people choose to disregard it,because they themselves are not violent in any way,and make believe"there is a better way"?We are all sorts of people,but my point is,extreme violence,can only be defeated by more violence.The authority's in this instance are confronting unbelievable violence,which is not going to stop unless you cut the cancer out completely.So what someone gets beat up,i would take it,if it meant getting rid of this nightmare of violence.Think rationally about this,some of these people have dismembered another human,and you want them treated in accordance with human rights directives?No doubt,the ones who have never done a violent act in their lives,can enlighten us,on why violence never works.Idealistic bullshit.

  4. Respecto Julián Leyzaola .Let the man do his job.A heavy hand is needed with puro animals.People stop whining when someone gets beat up?If it meant a better country,i would take a beating.

  5. All this whining about human rights and abuses. It makes me want to round them up and bust a cap in their asses to shut them up. The chief is ruthless and does exactly what needs to be done. I hope he has death squads that moonlight and kill everyone who needs to be killed.

  6. Now that La linea is gone????? Dont you mean now that El diego is gone??? Haha cus I dont think La linea has ever left.They have several bosses,and the one on the very top is still Vicente Carillo.

  7. So Human Rights is horrified that Chief Leyzaola struck a dead narco, a murderer of women and children ? What about the crazy shit that these bastards do to the civilian population or how about the horrible thigs they do to each other on video ? Where the fuk is Derechos Humanos then ? Respect, Chief Leyzaola ! fuk them up !

  8. The only thing left is a bunch tecatos holding up the linea flag. Carillo is were all his other bosses are anywhere but Juarez. Its been over people just kept talking about how the Linea was coming back and really putting to the GN and how no one like the GN. Reality is GN runs the Plaza time for them to tidy up, Carillo let in to much garbage loose on the streets.

  9. yeah the juarez cartel is still here just not diego.. and leysola police has been killing people that work for the juarez cartel, he was sent here just like in tijuana to finish off any cartel that opposes the sinaloa.. just that since sinaloa has so many fronts to fight the fight has shifted elsewhere to sinaloas own territory.. still cops keep falling in juarez like the one burned alive 2 or 3 days ago for supporting the gente nueva

  10. It is hilarious whenever someone here whines about human rights activists, they are doing their job and exposing abuses from both sides. I bet you'd change your opinion if you got arrested in Mexico and got tortured a bit because they thought you were a cartel operative.

  11. From the US looking in this guy is a honarable man.You are not going to face these Cartels if your a saint you are going to have to take them out like the US Mob piece by piece matching violence with violence. But peace will happen in the long term. This is a war innocent people are going to die that is part of it but anyone who goes after this man to me is involved in the Cartel.

  12. 11:19 youre right Gente Nueva did run the plaza,you know who ran the plazas for them in Chihuahua??It was Noel El Flaco Salguiero,and Felipe Cabrera.You know where these last two are at???

  13. You know what, 11:56 AM, if I was in Mexico acting like a narco and I got busted, I would deserve everything that I had coming to me including a bullet to the head. What guys like you want is for the cartels to act with impunity and for the authorities to have their hands tied. We're way past that - it's time for all out war and in a war innocents get killed by the thousands. Let the blood flow!

  14. @ December 26, 2011 11:56 AM .Asshole,there is a post above,where the guy says he would take a beating,if it meant a better country.You write without reading,you must be the non-violent type.

  15. He is a great man... Mexico needs more like him and it may have a chance at pulling its head out of its ass but I fear there are to many weak minded drug addicted psychopaths that will always go for the easy softer way so Mexico is probably doomed but this man is a hero non the less...

  16. 11:19 q mi marranos nuevos e el M10 Apa??HAHAHA no valen verga ustedes tampoco no pudieron con el!!HAHA

  17. Anonymous said 12/26/2001 " It is hilarious whenever someone here whines about human rights activists, they are doing their job and exposing abuses from both sides. '

    And exactly when do they expose the abuses and outright slaughter of civilians by the Cartels ? When the Cartels butcher the families of soldiers ? When ? I have never read an article where one of those hypocrites from the Derechos Humanos calls out the cartels for the massacres of civilians .

    " I bet you'd change your opinion if you got arrested in Mexico and got tortured a bit because they thought you were a cartel operative."

    Really ? I bet you'd change your mind too if it was happening in this country or if you had to pay for protection, or if you lived under the constant threat of kidnapping, wanton murder and thievery by marauding gangs of postapocalyptic assholes, armed to the teeth and fueled on cheap coke. You'd be thinking about you and your family instead of the rights of some subhuman following some homicidal death cult who only think about themselves and not the lives they destroy. There is nothing "hilarious " about that.

  18. This exactly the type of cop Mexico needs. A poster earlier said that the cartls play with no rules, as even kidnapping navy cadets and torturing them to death, as well as many other horrible crimes. while the authorities are expected to play by the rules ?. kill all those criminal scum i say.bravo to the chief. but i hope he has reliable bodyguards because the cartels must want him dead very bad !

  19. You have police murdering and torturing you just have another gang, this time with badges. Mexico need real police and real government...Just like the US. Does no one here know that most narcos are current or former police or army? Stay calm and try to use your heads

  20. Three points I can think to make here:
    1st: I think the entire drug war and the illegalization of the substances in question behind it are an unmitigated disaster that should be stopped at the first opportunity, only then can we really start cleaning these cartels up.

    2nd: However, that said, given the nightmare situation in Juarez right now, Leyzoala is almost exactly the kind of cop that city needs, when violence and lawlessness reach these levels (thanks to the bastards in Washington and their lickspittle Claderon) the kind of policing this police cheif is doing is far more likely to create some basic peace than soft pussyfooting bullshit. The situation is desperate and these are his best chances of holding back the tide of violenhce under these current conditions.

    3d: One of the commentators quoted in the article above did make a good point, in addition to his tough, ruthless measures, Leyzoala should avoid creating too much of a personality for himself and focus more on creating a solid, effective police organization that institutionalizes the successful policies that are apparently working so far.

  21. The murder rate in jaurez was going at a slow pace this year before he got to juarez i hate that asshole Julian trying to take credit for lowering murders yet they were still going to be lower this year then the 2 years before at the pace it was going

  22. Who ever wrote this story has been smoking too much weed , Mr Leyzoala is doing whats right and thats it , if he has to beat up these Culos ....Go right ahead Mr "L" do what you got to do to make these animals learn ...

  23. At times like this you have someone trying to corret things. Let him do that or let Jaurez burn....

  24. As an ex-con & participant to the drug trade,Im not mad at leyzaola for enforcing the law,but what about his crooked officers that plant drugs & guns on innocent people just to make news & feed statistics?And dont go making some stupid comment that it rarely happens because its a daily ocurrence in Mexico.Society cries out when innocent people are killed & they have every right to do so,I DO NOT AGREE with the killing of innocent bystanders,but I also DO NOT AGREE with the way law enforcement & military frame,harrass & mistreats hard working law abiding citizens.So if he wants to be a good cop,he should start with his own!!

  25. I've read many articles about this guy from years 2009-current. This is a man what kind of Mexico needs more. VERY MUCH RESPECT, Mr. Leyzaola!
    I'd give him free hands to do what ever he thinks is necessary.

  26. you guys dont even know what you are talking about.. he is not the good cop everyone thinks he is. he was brought to keep the sinaloa cartel operaing in juarez.. like all other efforts to keep them expanding from federal to military police paid, thanks to his success in deteriorating the tijuana cartel he was a perfect choice for juarez and maintaining power now that the sinaoans are fighting a war on many fronts

  27. Los compas feli y el chaparro se pusieron de acuerdo para traer tanto federal aqui y torcer a ______ e indios soldados del CDJ. Debez en cuando atrapan a alguien del CDS, pero los dejan salir de volada.

  28. Last comment you mis-spelled you said "sinaoans": SINALOENSES, pendejo> El Teniente Coronel served vey well in TiJUana. In 2008 estaba cabron, I tell you this because I live in San Diego-Proximity to the
    San Ysidro-Tijuana border for the inalphabetas that don't know geography. This is not a perfect world. Did our US troops establish so called democracy in Iraq with a white glove??? how many sand-N did we waste there?

  29. He needs 30 body guards at all times.

  30. Leyzaola tortured municipal cops in Tijuana that were never found guilty of any crime. He is an evil pig who doesn't care who he tramples in his lust for power.


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