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Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Marcelo Ebrard and Public Security: Background, Possibilities and Prospects for the ANGEL Plan (Part 1)

Redlogarythm for Borderland Beat 

Disclaimer: the following article is the result of nearly a month of tedious and lengthy investigations in which hundreds of different sources -of all the political spectrum- have been analyzed and contrasted. The nature of this piece of work is undoubtedly political and the opinions and conclusions that the reader might find in it must be attributed exclusively to its author since they do not resemble the opinions of other members of Borderland Beat. In less than a year Mexico, the country we all love, will be electing a new President who will be the one responsible for the fight against organized crime, Mexico's current most important threat to national and international security. In this sense it is the opinion of the author that Marcelo Ebrard poses as one of the candidates with real possibilities of winning such an election and it is because of this fact that his career and past must be analyzed in detail.

For doing so the reader will be taken through Ebrard´s political career, including the environment and circumstances that have surrounded his life and times. Such a read can be tough and lengthy for the novel reader, but if anybody wants to distinguish the fact from the myth, the truth from the deliberate lie he/she must pay the cheap price of processing considerable amounts of information. At the end of the day is a bearable cost considering the fact that the future of Mexico is at stake.

On July 10th, nearly a week ago, a crowd gathered in the Blackberry Auditory of the Condesa Colony in the middle of Mexico City. Using techy imagery and a combination of electric and epic music as background Marcelo Ebrard, former Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary, gave a speech trying to use the direct and simple forms of a TED talk.

Speaking in a calmed tone and using his monotone and nasal voice Mr. Ebrard began by exposing the economic and social capital that Mexico retains: “We are going to enjoy the safest Mexico of all its history” he said. “We live in a great country. In a country that has it all. We have natural resources. We have one of the most diverse and successful populations in the world. We have more than 68 different languages. We have Latin America's biggest manufacturing plant. We are the main exporter to the United States. We are a country that has it all so during the next year it reaches its greatness and all its objectives. We have one of the greatest civilizations in the history of the world. That is our beginning point. (...) We have everything, my friends. This is a great country. Full of culture (...), with a youth that each day in our nation invents, proposes, fights (...) We are the fifth country regarding its biodiversity”. The list of Mexico´s positive characteristics -almost endless- is analyzed by Ebrard point by point.

In honor to the truth it must be said that the speech was designed to be an integral part of his public relations campaign, a precedent of what will become a full electoral campaign when in November 2023 the official MORENA candidate is elected to run for the presidential throne. Due to time limitations imposed by the Mexican constitution the President of Mexico cannot be elected twice. That is why Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his party, MORENA, have to choose a new candidate that will represent the formation in the upcoming presidential elections. Since the beginning two individuals have posed themselves as the ideal candidates for substituting a man, AMLO himself, that still is extremely popular after nearly 5 years of mandate: Claudia Sheinbaum, former mayor of Mexico City, and Marcelo Ebrard, former Foreign Affairs Secretary. Both of them have already announced their presidential aspirations and have stepped down from their positions. 

Although the national institution in charge of designing and implementing the electoral process, the National Electoral Institute or INE, has tried to prevent future candidates from engaging in political campaigns until November when the campaign does officially start. Not surprisingly, the INE´s efforts have been fruitless and politicians have already started making promises and talking about future incognitas while at the same time attacks against rivals have already been aired by the press. Ebrard and Sheinbaum, for example, have made public their differences and on July 7th Ebrard´s campaign personnel accused Sheinbaum of playing a “dirty war”.

It is in this context of political campaign that what Ebrard said during his July 10th intervention must be understood. During his performance, the former Foreign Affairs Secretary announced a multidisciplinary public security program that according to his own declarations, would end Mexico´s security crisis.

After analyzing Mexico´s strong points -economy, culture, society, biodiversity. etc- Ebrard descended to the real world and faced its country´s main issue: public security. 

“My dear friends. I have been traveling around the country intensively for the last twenty days. Journeys, conversations, dialogues… And we have to face the fact that by the present day our people´s main concern is insecurity. It is insecurity which prevents us from enjoying our great Mexican nation as we would like (...) That is the main concern we heard in our Republic. In the markets, in the talks with youngsters, in the streets, in the transport systems…everywhere I've been told of this in a variety of ways. And always in this way: we want tranquility. We want to live in a country where we are protected.

A lot of advances have been achieved. A lot has been done. Now we have a National Guard all across the country which will reach 500 headquarters and that was formed in 4 years. It has no precedent at all. We will reach out to have hundreds of thousands of people committed to the security of persons. But we need to give them the support and technology to make them go ahead, to make them achieve their mission (...) I am aware that a year ago I wouldn´t have been able to tell you this, but what I must tell you is to have in mind a plan I have designed”

This initiative was called Plan ANGEL (an acronym for Avanzadas Normas de Geolocalización y Seguridad or Advanced Laws for Geo-localization and Security) Ebrard stated that the ANGEL plan had been conceived by him on the basis of what his undoubtedly great experience in the relations with foreign nations as well as his background as head of Mexico City's Police Department (2000-2004) had managed him learn. “During the last 5 years I have visited all the world's most important countries. And in each country I have asked: what is working here? Which technology do you have here? Why do you have this degree of security? How have you achieved it? And I must present to you what I have called the ANGEL plan”.

Marcelo Ebrard presenting his ANGEL public security initiative

The specifics regarding the ANGEL plan are still a great incognita given the fact that Ebrard did not enter into details limiting himself to explain the main lines of this eventual security program which according to his words is not going to cost a single peso: “I already know where we are going to obtain the resources from and it is not going to cost not even an additional penny from the budget” he assured in a video posted on his TikTok account. 

The only sure thing regarding the ANGEL plan is its massive use of technology for the repression of criminality. According to Ebrard´s dissertation the ANGEL initiative is going to be based on eight different main lines which the former Foreign Affairs Secretary explained thoroughly with the aid of a cheating sheet that he continuously consulted :

1.- “Facial Recognition. We need to install facial recognition in all the Mexican Republic. There already are systems but they aren't connected between them and they aren't given the results we would like to obtain (...) In 2008 when we brought cameras to Mexico facial recognition technology didn't exist yet. We couldn't resolve it with the existing technology”

2.- “We need to start a system of identifiers to point in a map the place where a weapon has been shot. This is used in all the US. Here we have some devices but we need to expand it and to have the latest versions of the identifiers to know where a shot did happen. In each city, on the roads and in the rural areas. Because today we can. In the past it wasn't possible”

3.- “Weapons detectors through different technologies are also available. We can integrate them”. 

4.- “Morphological recognition of criminals (...) What am I referring to? They are already being used… A criminal has a characteristic way of acting and walking and we can establish patterns. This is already possible. It wasn't possible a short time ago… This means that if we had this technology we could have prevented a lot of femenicides, homicides or other actions by analyzing the type of way of walking and behaving. This technology establishes patterns and then you can forecast…”

5.- “Vehicle tracking devices. We need to have them all connected. They already exist but don't work like that”.

6.- “Drones. In 2007 we brought the first drones to Mexico City for security purposes. But today the drone technology is very advanced and I can tell you that Mexico is today one of the main drone designers at a global level to use them for localizing vehicles at different altitudes, follow them and report everything to the database in up to a minute”.

7.- “Intelligent cameras for the National Guard. Each National Guard, with that camera, transforms himself into a source of real time information regarding what is happening in the streets or any other event in which he is immersed”.

8.- “And lastly, we need to create an ecosystem of artificial intelligence to have all Mexican databases interconnected at the same time. This is, a macro AI application. I already saw several examples of that. It still is not done at a global level but we are going to do it in Mexico. This macro application would connect all databases.

 What would this mean, my friends?: facial recognition, identifying where a weapon was shot, weapons detectors, morphological identification, vehicle trackers, drones that follow criminals, intelligent cameras for the National Guard, an AI-based national database which allows us to run all the data to identify those who violate the law… What does it mean?: that our efficacy and efficiency would multiply itself by ten or if we are capable of organizing ourselves by one hundred.

It could mean the difference between preventing and sanctioning a crime in real time or the situation we sometimes face in which the investigation of a crime takes months or even years. 

An example: when we installed the cameras in Mexico City we created a video-forensic unit because it wasn't possible to analyze the data. We had to follow the criminal by motorbike or by vehicle, record all his activities and then comparing the vehicles manually. That is how video-forensics was done. 

As of today with all the things I´ve talked about -AI, all databases interconnected, and all information sources connected- we wouldn't need to conduct video-forensics because in minutes we would obtain what in the past took us one or two weeks. 

Imagine what this implies for all of us… Can you imagine all the crimes we can prevent? All the robberies we can frustrate? All the road assaults we can prevent? All the things we daily live by which we can impede? To protect the people… 

Well, all of that is within reach and it is called ANGEL plan. And as I told you, Mexico is going to enjoy each safest period with this plan. These are the technologies which are available from today onwards and that constitute the plan which I suggest to you…

For Mexico, always. Que viva Mexico!!!! The safest Mexico we are going to enjoy… Thank you very much”

Ebrard´s speech, which ended with the crowd -a strange mix of young people and elders wearing cosmopolitan clothing and invariably recording everything with their mobile devices- shouting his name not in a very vehement way while a series of photographs depicting episodes of Ebrard´s past political positions -much of them with a young AMLO- and was accompanied by a strange epic music had a strange closing.

In the middle of the crowd´s applause Ebrard took again the floor and said: “Remember that I was appointed as Public Security Secretary…My dream was to be a firefighter or to be a policeman. I did it, I succeeded at it and I know what I am talking about…”

Marcelo Ebrard: A Professional Politician

Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón was bred in a family of French origins. Already as a student it was clear that foreign relations was his goal and he studied not only in his native country -where he majored in the COLMEX with a thesis about the relation between the legislative power and democracy- but also in an elite French Ecole, the Parisian École Nationale d'administration. After that, following the steps of any individual avid of power and with the possibility of thriving in the political cosmogony of the Mexico of the 1980´s he joined the PRI, the party in which most of MORENA´s main characters did started their careers, including AMLO.

In their book “The Priist That We All Have Inside Us” Nacho Lozano and María Scherer conduct a very interesting interview of Marcelo Ebrard regarding his former loyalty to Mexico´s once corporate political monster. As he recognises in that interview, Marcelo Ebrard belonged to the party “from the end of the 1970s until 1995 when I renounced”

Asked for his opinion about the true nature of a member of the PRI Ebrard answers that such a person is characterized by his/her levels of obedience. “An obedience” -he says- “which reaches levels of courtesy, servilism and corruption which are higher as time goes by. The boss is never wrong and he must be pleased at any cost”.

Interestingly enough, Ebrard, while forgetting that he belonged to the party he now obliterates as a corrupt and old-fashioned remora, deliberately minimized his position of power inside the PRI´s bureaucracy when asked about the positions he occupied. “I never held any important position in the PRI. I was very marginal” he concluded.

But Marcelo Ebrard was deliberately hiding the truth by posing himself as a young idealist driven to the PRI´s ranks by a mixture of patriotism and concern for the public good. In fact Ebrard had held important positions inside the PRI´s administration of Mexico City and while it would be false to state that he held a job from which he detented an unquestionable degree of power it would be as false to try to characterize him as a second row bureaucrat.

Ebrard started his role in serious politics by the hand of Manuel Camacho Solís, one of the PRI´s major figures and one of the main political allies of president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) Although his first contacts with the public arena had begun in the decade of the 1980s when he participated in the Popular Housing Renovation Program for the rebuilding of the real estate infrastructure destroyed by the 1985 earthquake and the 1987 passing of Mexico´s first Environmental law Ebrard´s time came in 1992 when with 33 years he was appointed as Secretary General of the Government of the Federal District Department. 

Marcelo Ebrard (second from the left) and Manuel Camacho Solís (second from the right) when both were members of Carlos Salinas de Gortari´s PRI Government

At that time, what now is known as the Distrito Federal -Federal District or DF- was not an independent political entity but an administrative precinct whose leader -the Departamental Chief- was directly appointed by the President of the Republic. This system had traditionally been used by the PRI´s oligarchy as a way of ensuring the fidelity of a region which by the time was already Mexico´s biggest and richest zone. And when Carlos Salinas de Gortari got to power in 1988 after an extremely dubious victory against Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas he designated Manuel Camacho Solís as Departmental Chief of the Federal District who in turn, designated in 1992 Marcelo Ebrard as his second hand. He would remain in that job until 1993.

That very year, in November, Luís Donaldo Colosio was announced as the PRI candidate for the 1994 presidential elections. Manuel Camacho Solís reacted angrily. He had been expecting to be nominated over Colosio. President Salinas de Gortari reacted quickly and to prevent an internal PRI skirmish over the future presidential sash designated Ebrard´s godfather as Mexico's Foreign Affairs Secretary -the very same position Ebrard would occupy during AMLO´s tenure-. 

Manuel Camacho Solís took Ebrard with him and designated his future successor as Foreign Affairs Sub Secretary between 1993 and 1994.

Ebrard has publicly stated that he severed his links with the PRI in 1995 and he didn't lie. The future of the party he had belonged to had died with Colosio in the dusty streets of Tijuana a year before when his boss´s major rival was killed with a bullet to the head by an alleged lunatic acting by himself. The 1994 Zapatista uprising -a crisis in which Ebrard would mediate by promoting agreements with the insurgent EZLN army- coincided in time with the election of Ernesto Zedillo, a political trifle elected in the last moment to fill the vacuum created by the murder of Colosio, his friend, whose death he never contributed to investigate properly.

Ebrard left the PRI and acted for a few years as political consultant before joining the Partido Verde or Green Party -a political incongruence allegedly based in ecologist ideas which has acted as a very valuable hinge between establishment parties since its foundation- with which he was elected to the Federal Congress as an independent candidate.

Ebrard´s involvement with the Partido Verde was not the result of a political career undertaken by his aspirations towards political independence but a very well calculated maneuver. In fact during these years Ebrard was still under the aura of his former mentor, Manuel Camacho Solís, who at the time was trying to give birth to a new political party, the Partido del Centro Democrático -Party of the Democratic Center or PCD-, an effort to which Ebrard contributed for years. As Ebrard acknowledged in an interview conducted with Jornada in April 1997 he partnered with the Partido Verde as a way to reach the Federal Congress and tie links with the PAN -the conservative party that would win the PResidency with Vicente Fox in 2000- and the PRD -the leftist party in which a young former PRI politician called Andrés Manuel López Obrador was making himself known as a staunch anti-establishment agent-. “We are not seeking for a springboard -Ebrard said on that occasion- but for political participation (...) It is a fundamental process for the formation of Mexico's political future”.

A young Marcelo Ebrard poses as an independent candidate for the Partido Verde, a sui generis political party known for acting as hinge between bigger and more powerful political groups

But the history of Ebrard´s alliances with rival political groups went far beyond at the beginning of the XXIst century. Back at the time, still in charge of the PCD, Ebrard was nominated by his organization as candidate for the Governorship of the Federal District. At the same time the man that in 2018 would become Mexico's president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was launching an opposition platform called Alliance for Mexico in which five different parties tried to oppose a united front against both the PRI and the PAN. The coalition was led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas -son of former president and nationalist hero Lázaro Cárdenas del Río- and had appointed AMLO as the head of the coalition to get the Governorship of the Federal District.

Marcelo Ebrard and Manuel Camacho Solís in 1999, a time when both were major figures inside the PCD party

And it was at this moment that the paths of both Marcelo Ebrard and AMLO crossed for the first time in history. The national situation didn´t favor opposition candidates. The PRI-PAN binomial had a very powerful social basis and the possibilities of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas to win the presidential elections were severely limited. At the State level the situation was identical and the Coalition leaders started searching for allies from other minority political movements.

That is the reason for AMLO contacting Marcelo Ebrard to propose a simple deal: step down from his candidacy for the Federal District Governorship and ask his supporters to back AMLO instead. Naturally the PCD would be paid for such a move; they were able to make amendments to AMLO´s political program -which included a mechanism for the motion of censure of the Governor by the citizenship interestingly enough the reform of the State Police as well as interesting public security proposals- and were also promised five districts for the PCD to present their own candidates -Azcapotzalco, Venustiano Carranza, Iztapalapa, Tláhuac and Cuauhtémoc- in order to guarantee their electoral success.

On March 14th AMLO sent Ebrard a letter asking for his renouncement. In the letter he referred to Ebrard as a public servant characterized by his “efficiency and honesty” and reminded him that “it is about winning over the complete machinery of the State, that is why I appeal to you so we both make a triumphant political campaign on this July 2nd”.

Ebrard replied in good terms too: “I coincide with you. A great effort must be done to prevent the division of the opposition vote”. In this first response by Ebrard he added something very relevant that should remind us of the true nature of Ebrard´s character. In an effort to appear distant from AMLO´s political natures -which has traditionally been defined as leftist- Ebrard remarked that “neither me or the PCD are leftists, but we have points in common”.

On the morning of March 15th 2000 Marcelo Ebrard, after a lengthy and tough meeting with AMLO held in a restaurant in the Polanco area, publicly announced that he stepped down from the campaign in favor of AMLO and asked his voters to vote for his colleague. Nevertheless Ebrard stated that “the negotiation is not an exchange of political positions” in an effort to remark his independent nature from AMLO´s campaign.

The 2000 election for the Governorship of the Federal District was extremely contested. Although the area had previously been a PRI fiefdom the things had changed and the once monolithic party to which Ebrard once belonged fell to the third position with 998,351 votes (23.1%) The real duel happened between the conservative PAN which got 1,461,656 votes (33.9%) and AMLO´s Alliance for Mexico City which won by a meager margin with 1,694,186 votes (39.2%)

Once AMLO got to the Governorship of the Federal District Marcelo Ebrard soon joined the man who had once been one of his political opponents. After a brief time as a counselor of the National Council of Savers Ebrard joined AMLO´s cabinet as a member of the Advisory Council from 2000 to 2002. The ways of the two leaders -AMLO and Ebrard- criss crossed again and the once conservative promising Ebrard soon found himself as the right hand of Mexico´s undoubtedly most known leftist politician.

The Way to the Top: Ebrard´s Ascension to the DF Olympus

On February 15th 2002 Marcelo Ebrard was appointed by AMLO as the Federal District´s Director of Public Security. When assuming office Ebrard was perfectly conscious of the risks and challenges awaiting him.

Mexico DF was an immense area. In 2000 the Federal District had officially 8,605,000 inhabitants while the 35 municipalities of the State of Mexico, which is next to the DF and connected with its neighborhoods, had 9,239,000 inhabitants although the real numbers were probably far higher. Together they comprised Mexico City´s Metropolitan Area, an urban monster in which 16,784,000 people coexisted in 2001.

By the late 1990s -specially after the 1994 economic crisis- the Federal District had developed a considerable number of criminal hotspots in which organized crime had developed a formidable social base and was conducting intense criminal operations. Kidnappings, particularly, were particularly common in the Federal District. Most of these events were provoked by very well organized criminal groups -many of them family clans, like the group led by the Arizmendi brothers- who conducted the kidnappings in the urban area of the DF but held the victim and conducted the negotiations from the State of Mexico.

Police corruption was also chronic and had reached unbearable levels. Under the guidance of Arturo Durazo Moreno -Mexico City´s Public Security Secretary between 1972 and 1982- a formidable police mafia had infiltrated the law enforcement bodies ravaging the institutions through extensive rackets in which police officers were forced to collect money from every taxable activity they might find. The extent of corruption had been so deep that Durazo and his cronies had found an informal body known as “La Hermandad” -the Brotherhood-, a group of high ranking police officers directing from the top most criminal activities conducted in the Federal District. The extent of the Brotherhood´s current status still is subjected to extensive debate with some experts affirming that it still exists and operates freely.

The level of insecurity made of Mexico City one of Mexico's most dangerous areas at a time when drug trafficking was still seen by most of the population as a rural phenomenon happening in States with a great tradition of violence and criminal dynasties such as Tamaulipas, Baja California or Sinaloa. In the late 1990s and 2000s the news about gruesome kidnappings, police corruption and drug retailing affected Mexico City mainly.

Some efforts had been undertaken to reverse such a deplorable public security situation the most important of which had been the appointment of a cadre of military generals to manage Mexico City's Public Security Secretariat (SSPC) On May 28th 1996, with Óscar Espinosa Villareal as head of the DF Government, president Ernesto Zedillo appointed Division General Enrique Tomás Salgado Cordero -who had been in charge of Guerrero´s Military Zone- as the Federal District´s Public Security Secretary. With him, General Salgado Cordero brought 102 high ranking military officers from the SEDENA. These were the men, it was said, who would bring police corruption to an end and bring back to line the criminal gangs operating from inside the colonies -the DF denomination for neighborhoods-. 

Óscar Espinosa Villarreal (right), PRI Governor of the DF. In 1996 the President of the Republic would apoint a SEDENA general as head of the Public Security Secretariat, an institution that was rapidly militarized. Source: Reforma

Although the use of military forces for law enforcement duties was something which became increasingly popular from 2006 onwards, with president Calderon´s public declaration of the war against organized crime the truth is that it had been a mechanism that had already been used in States such as Guerrero -where the SEDENA played a pivotal role in substituting local police units in a global effort to tackle the guerrilla uprising during the 1960s and 1970s-, Oaxaca, Veracruz, Yucatán and, naturally, Chiapas. Now the DF would join the list of regions in which the Armed Forces would replace or at least help the police.

Enrique Tomás Salgado Cordero. A SEDENA general, he would be appointed by President Zedillo as head of the DF Public Security Secretariat. Source: Reforma

Soon a depuration program was institutionalized as a way of cleaning the ranks of the law enforcement. With the help of 16 new Delegational Directorates at the head of which General Salgado Cordero appointed his most trusted men the 50 sector leaders -the once almighty police heads of the urban area of the DF- were removed, placed in the situation of administrative suspension and substituted by SEDENA personnel.

In the case of the lower ranks extensive cleaning operations took place too. On March 1st 1997 all the members of the police working in the Iztapalapa zone were taken to Military Camp Nº 1 to undergo “re-education”. The same happened in the Gustavo A. Madero municipality. In both cases police units were replaced by members of the Military Police N. 3 Brigade which started patrolling and conducting law enforcement duties.

By September 1997 the Internal Comptroller of the DF police department made public that 1,701 officers had been dismissed, 1,547 had been suspended and 1,299 were ready to be summoned by the public prosecutor on the grounds of having committed different crimes and offenses. At that time Mexico DF police bodies gathered 35,215 members, of whom 21,637 engaged in police duties while the rest consisted of administrative personnel.

In the operational field the fight against criminality -both common and organized- was left in the hands of two special bodies: Fox Task Force and Jaguar Dissuasion Special Corp. The latter conducted hit and run operations and involved heavily armed personnel trained in counter-terrorism tactics. The former patrolled the urban areas in huge motorbikes with which they made arrests.

Members of the Fox Task Force conducting an operation, 1997. Source: Reforma

Members of the Jaguar Task Force patrolling. In the bottom image a detainee is carried by a member of the Jaguar Task Force. Source: Reforma

Naturally, the use of military personnel for the performing of extensive law enforcement activities couldn´t end in another way and soon the members of the militarized SSPC gained notoriety for their rude ways: searches without warrants, torture, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, etc. Between October 1996 and August 1997 a total of 878 complaints for human rights abuses were filed against police while the number of complaints regarding the judicial police accounted for 494.

Operation carried out as part of General Salgado Cordero´s broader strategy against criminality in the DF. Source: Reforma

The list of grievances provoked by the men of General Salgado Cordero grew and grew. And it would have grown even more if during a joint operation conducted in the Buenos Aires municipality in September 1997 to fight the illicit market of stolen car parts members of the Fox and Jaguar teams had not kidnapped, tortured, executed and disappeared six young men whose bodies turned up later. 

The result of the use of SEDENA personnel to crack on the DF criminal networks didn't pay for the cost in terms of civil liberties sacrificed in the altar of safety and public security. Although some achievements were made by General Salgado Cordero´s policies- between January and July 1996, for example, 102,502 crimes were reported while the numbers for the same period of 1997 decreased to 98,804- the truth is that the criminal panorama had remained undoubtedly untouched. The daily average of crime for a normal day accounted for 700/800 and the average weekend was infernal with nearly 1,000 crimes reported per day. Bank assaults, particularly, had become increasingly popular in the DF with one assault each three days. In 1997 alone 150 banks were raided by criminals in the DF urban area.

On December 5th 1997 with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas as the DF new Governor -he had been elected on December 4th marking the beginning of a series of leftist Governments over the DF which still continue to be unquestionable- former Lieutenant Colonel Rodolfo Debernardi Debernardi was appointed as the SSP new Secretary…only to present his resignation eight months later -on August 28th 1998- when he said that “the person capable of solving the problem of insecurity in Mexico City had not yet been born”.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Rodolfo Debernardi Debernardi (left) was appointed as head of the SSP by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (right) He would be quated saying that the public security in the DF had no solution at all

Alejandro Gertz Manero -a bureaucrat with some experience in combating drug trafficking as coordinator of the 1976 Operativo Cóndor eradication campaign and who would later be the head of the Federal Public Security Secretary under president Fox as well as AMLO´s Federal General Public Prosecutor- assumed office as the DF Public Security Secretary in August 1997 amidst general rejection among the police cadres who labeled him as a bureaucrat who could do nothing to re-establish the citizens confidence (he would answer to such complaints by rejecting to attend the ceremony of graduation of the cadets in the Police Formative Institute on the first day of his new job. He would too arrive at office at 12 am instead of by 7 am as his predecessor had done) Gertz Manero would remain in office until November 2000.

Alejandro Gertz Manero -current Federal General Public Prosecutor- would be the head of the DF SSP fbetween 1999 and 2000

In the meantime the US Department of State issued on April 28th 1998 a red notice report regardingMexico City's crime rate as having reached “critical levels (...) including what appears to be a significant incidence of sexual assaults in crimes committed against women”. The report also remarked on the sharp increase in kidnapping of foreigners and warned that “In several cases tourists report that uniformed police are the crime perpetrators, stopping vehicles and seeking money or assaulting and robbing tourists walking late at night”.

To replace Gertz Manero -who would be hired by president Fox as the head of the newly created Federal Public Security Secretariat- AMLO -who had assumed office as the DF Governor of December 5th 2000- would hire Leonel Godoy Rangel. A professional criminal lawyer Godoy Rangel would later be Governor of Michoacán between 2008 and 2012.

Leonel Godoy Rangel, head of the DF SSP between 2000 and 2002

Under Godoy Rangel´s direction a public security general strategy was adopted following five main lines: 1) the complete organic restructuration of the SSP, 2) the elaboration of an Internal Reglament for the law enforcement, 3) the elaboration of an integral program of public security and justice procurement, 4) the elaboration of the 2001-2006 public security strategy and 5) the decentralization of the DF law enforcement.

Despite such initial efforts in February 2002 Leonel Godoy presented his resignation as the DF Public Security Secretary arguing that the then Governor of Michoacán, Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, had asked for his services and that “one must be where one is needed (...) I am needed in Michoacán” 

As Godoy´s successor a new candidate was proposed; Francisco Garduño Yáñez (who currently is the head of Mexico's Migration Institute and the scapegoat for the recent tragedy in which 40 migrants held captive in a Ciudad Juárez detention facility choked to death in a fire). He had been a Government Subsecretary for the DF and AMLO himself publicly stated that he was going to be the next head of the SSP.

Due to the special nature of the Federal District certain nominations made by the local Governor -among them the head of the SSP- had and still have to be confirmed by the president of the Republic. The president of the Republic in 2002 was Vicente Fox Quezada from the conservative PAN and a staunch political enemy of AMLO with whom he had already had numerous clashes.

And a new clash happened again regarding Garduño Yáñez´s nomination as the Federal District new SSP head. When AMLO asked Vicente Fox to confirm the nomination the President of the Republic refused to do so, alleging that what the DF needed was a “non-partisan professional”. AMLO, obviously, got into a political argument with President Fox accusing him of provoking a “very clumsy move” to distract public attention from his mismanagement of the federal issues. 

But the truth was that according to the Mexican corpus iuris the President of the Republic had to confirm the nomination of the proposal for the head of the DF SSP made by the Governor and AMLO´s candidate had been vetted. Who could replace Garduño Yáñez as the head of the SSP, a position for which the eventual candidate had to appear as moderate enough as to get the green light from a federal President who was a hardline enemy of the one proposing the candidate? The answer was found in the person of an individual who, although belonging to AMLO´s cabinet, had undergone considerable off the radar: Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón.

AMLO and Marcelo Ebrard at the time when both worked for the DF State Government. The first one as Governor and the second one as head of the SSP

In honor of the truth it must be said that Marcelo Ebrard had already been elevated to the SSP by the time AMLO´s initial candidate, Garduño Yáñez, received Fox´s veto. On February 14th 2002 Ebrard was designated by AMLO as the head of the SSP´s Subsecretariat for the Attention of Citizens and Police Development,a new body which had been created ex profeso as part of AMLO´s strategy of making contacts with the civil society to get the citizens collaboration. AMLO defended Ebrard´s profile by stating that “he is an efficient and honest professional committed with the best of causes”. Ebrard replied to such courtesies by saying that he “would join the SSP because I am aware of the vital importance of public security (...) I think I can contribute in the area of my competence, a Sub Secretariat”.

Ebrard´s strictly political role, with almost no experience in the public security field didn´t go unnoticed for the critics, both from inside and outside the SSP. AMLO, very aware of the risk of leaving Ebrard alone in this matter, defended him. “It is very important to have a public servant with Ebrard´s characteristics, especially now that the political profession is so underestimated by technocracy”. When accepting the fact that Ebrard had no police expertise he admitted it but answered that “nevertheless he knows the city from his past experiences and is going to reinforce the SSP”.

But again things evolved quickly. We probably will never know how Marcelo Ebrard managed to play his cards in such a way that his new political superior -AMLO- agreed to promote him to the head of the SSP just after having appointed him as the head of one of SSP´s Sub Secretariats. But the truth is that four days after being designated as the head of the Subsecretariat for the Attention of Citizens and Police Development Marcelo Ebrard was named as the Federal District new Public Security Secretary.

Such a move surprised the spectators for its promptness. There had been rumors that Ebrard had been previously offered the SSP before it was assigned to Leonel Godoy, but the official designation of a man who was nothing more than a bureaucrat were dissipated in a press conference held on February 19th in which Ebrard tried to explain how he was going to deal with his new position, a position that had exhausted the political careers of nearly a dozen individuals during the ten previous years.

One of the first things Ebrard did in that meeting was to evaporate the ghost of the use of military force by the SSP for combatting criminality in the Federal District -the memoirs of the result of General Salgado Cordero´s men were very fresh at that time-."Do you consider the possibility of calling the military?" a journalist asked.  “No for the time being”, replied Ebrard. “Then would you consider it?” insisted the journalist. “Not for now” settled the new head of the SSP.

Faced again with his lack of police experience Ebrard replied very intelligently. “It has been politicians, not policemen, the ones succeeding in the combat against crime” he said, and marking the beginning of what would be a constant during the next years Ebrard alluded for the first time to former NY mayor Rudolph Giuliani as an example of a politician successful at tackling urban criminality. 

He too stressed the need for a greater investment in technology and information resources for the law enforcement focusing on the fundamental role that intelligence gathering would play for a successful public security campaign and announced that he would implement “important changes”. Inside the SSP there are people who do their work but there are others who don't and in this sense the necessary changes will be evaluated. A strong team will be formed so I will call top level people with experience in public security affairs”, he too added.

In another public speech he gave to the SSP´s high ranking officers he assured that he had experience in public security matters. “In my case the experience I have is as a public servant. I was the DF Government General Secretary and had to coordinate the public security program. I do have a background in this matter. What I do have is experience as a public servant, and that doesn't belong to any political party”.

It had been a long journey which had seen the evolution of an Ebrard who went from working for one of the PRI´s most powerful leaders -Manuel Camacho Solís- to his political claudication with AMLO, a new political master in whose hands Ebrard put his political career that had started to rise again. From a mere consultant in AMLO´s cabinet to the head of the DF most controversial and difficult position as Public Security Secretary. 

The challenges awaiting Ebrard as the head of the SSP were phenomenal. He had to control a territory of nearly 3,000 square kilometers in which a force of around 110,000 members of the law enforcement -although the exact numbers were not clear not even for the people in charge of paying their salaries- had to control a population of approximately 9,000,000 inhabitants the 37.5% of which -3,200,000 individuals- were between 10 and 29 years old.

The levels of criminality experienced by the DF were also incredibly high, although it must be said that its numbers had decreased a little bit since the peak of 1997 at the time of the Salgado Cordero administration. In 1997 alone 169,683 crimes were denounced by the State Prosecutor Office and by 2002 the number had decreased to 102,948. Still in 2002, when Ebrard took over the SSP, the main issue regarding public security were crimes against property the total of which accounted for 82% - 85,000 - in its various forms such as car theft -34,475; 33.49% of the total-, larceny -20,960; 20.36%-, armed robberies in businesses -12,438; 12.08%-, transport theft -10,150; 9.86%-, burglary -6,763; 6.57%-.

It must be stressed, though, that the lack of reliable statistical data regarding the DF criminal rates is chronic. There is no available official data regarding the crime incidence rates with the numbers aired unsteadily both by the SSP and the PGJDF -the State Prosecutors office- being scarce and fragmentary. What is even worse, the dark-number of offenses -the crimes that haven't been recorded because the victims haven´t denounced them to the proper authorities- has been extremely high up to the point that author Mario Arroyo has claimed it to be as high as 80%. This would mean, for example, that in 2002 -the year in which Ebrard took office as head of the SSP- the number of criminal offenses committed in the Federal District wouldn't have been 102,948 but in fact it would have consisted of 514,740 crimes.

Despite these considerations the following years would see a complete refurbishment of the DF SSP. It must be said that under the guidance of Marcelo Ebrard the institution underwent a series of changes -most of them carefully planned in a very effective public relations campaign- which would imply the hiring of high level external consultants as well as the achievement of certain successes in the field of public security.

Ebrard as the DF Public Security Secretary

On December 5th 2000, on the day AMLO swore as Governor of the DF he presented a very ambitious document in which the main goals of his administration were contained. The 186 pages long document was titled Program for the General Development of the Federal District 2001-2006 and contained detailed proposals which were supposed to be addressed by the new Governorship.

One of the attachments of the document was titled Government & Public Security, containing AMLO´s proposals in the field of the battle against crime. The document is paradigmatic not only for the refurbishment of the DF police bodies it proposed but for the explanation for violence and criminality it exposed.

“The main causes for insecurity” it read “are poverty, the absolute lack of employment and lack of confidence in the authorities”. The program also acknowledged a distinction between organized crime and common criminality labeling them both as causes for the deterioration of public security and recognized too that torture was actively used as a tool by police bodies, formulating the goal “Zero Torture” as a way of tackling such a problem in the near future.

Police corruption and the lack of an adequate education program for police officers were both cited as the main problems of the DF law enforcement.

Finally, AMLO´s program for the DF proposed the deconcentration of the police of the SSP which would be commanded according to a decentralized chain of command. Firstly, the President of the Republic, secondly the head of the SSP and thirdly the heads of the 16 different political delegations -the “neighborhoods” or administrative areas in which the DF was back then subdivided-.

Several signals warned about AMLO´s priority being public security. He presided each morning of the daily meeting of the Public Security cabinet and promoted the subdivision of the 16 political delegations into 70 police sectors in an imitation of what modern police forces did in American cities.

The panorama awaiting for Ebrard as head of the SSP was certainly discouraging. The law enforcement at the time of his designation was composed approximately by 90,000 members 34,000 of which were members of the Preventive Police -the unit in charge of patrolling the streets and answering to basic security situations-; 40,000 auxiliary police in charge of the security of administrative buildings and vital infrastructures and 15,000 banking police. The average salary of a police officer was 4,000 pesos (around 415 dollars) , this being the reason for many of the elements joining the force with the sole purpose of making money through bribes. And many individuals inside the law enforcement acted to protect the corrupt system. In the 1990s when the idea of conducting polygraph tests to members of the SSP the officers had declared on strike provoking a sharp increase in the criminal incidence. 

The capacity of the Preventive Police -the law enforcement body in charge of preventing and responding to typical crimes and offenses- was severely limited due to the lack of investigative resources. The DF police simply couldn't cope with the crime rates and the scarce resources it had to deal with them. Furthermore, the DF State Prosecutor had its own law enforcement body, the Judicial/Ministerial Police, which were in charge of investigating crimes that were competence of the State -excluding fields of public security such as drug trafficking, organized crime or human trafficking which were in the hands of the PGR and the Federal authorities- and although the Preventive Police was the main protagonist in dealing with forms of criminality they couldn't conduct their own investigations and what is worse, they had no informatized system for the compilation of information.

Citizen confidence in law enforcement was at its lowest levels since the times of general Salgado Cordero with 90% of the citizens declaring they had no confidence in policemen according to a 1999 poll conducted by Mexico´s International Transparency Division.

One of the first moves of both AMLO when getting to the DF Governorship was to approach the business sector. Contrary to what has been said about the current president of the Republic, AMLO has never been a radical leftist who sees upper classes as enemies. By contrast, he has been able to develop relationships and conduits of communication with the higher social classes, a sector of the population that in the early 2000s was being targeted by the colossal wave of kidnappings and crimes against property happening in the DF.

That was one of the reasons for the foundation in 2002 of the Consultative Council for the Rescue of the Historic Center, a public-private body through which three different entities -Federal Government, State Government and private initiative- collaborated in order to recover the main center of Mexico City from the hands of petty criminality, illegal commerce and a permanent state of decay. The DF Government was represented in the Council through the Secretaries of urban development, housing and tourism and one of the members of the private initiative -and possibly the one more interested in the success of this body- was billionaire Carlos Slim who contributed with much of the money invested in the operation -which included infrastructure refurbishment, the introduction of optic network and the crushing of the street vendor market-.

But the collaboration with the private sector -impersonated in several of Latin America´s richest businessmen- didn't end in the creation of the Consultative Council. When being designated as Public Security Secretary Marcelo Ebrard declared that he was willing to use the expertise gathered through other experiences and foreign actors to apply it to the DF. His office studied the processes of public security and crime reduction in Palermo, Bogotá and New York and came up with the idea of applying similar methods locally.

It is in this context that the relationship between AMLO, Ebrard and Rudolph Giuliani must be analyzed. Once a heavy hitter in the Reagan's first Administration Justice Department Giuliani had made himself a reputation as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York where he managed high-level cases involving white collar criminality and organized crime -he would be one of the main keys in the dismantling the Commission of the American Cosa Nostra in the late 1980s-. After that he became an active politician and was elected as mayor of New York from 1994 until 2001 applying a public security policy of zero tolerance on the basis of the “broken windows'' theory, an idea based in the direct relationship between the minimal tolerance towards any type of offense -petty or relevant- and the reduction of criminality.

After leaving the public service in December 2001 Giuliani founded a security consulting firm which having forged a strategic partnership with Ernst & Young would engage into advising countries with great security problems into how to deal with them.

On October 11th 2002 Marcelo Ebrard and López Obrador announced in a joint press conference that the Government of the Federal District would hire Giuliani´s firm to produce a report into how the public security situation could be handled.

Marcelo Ebrard and AMLO announcing the hiring of Giuliani´s firm to tackle criminality in the DF

Who had the idea of hiring Mr. Giuliani? No one has ever answered such a question. Although the announcement of the hiring og Giuliani´s firm services was made in late 2002 it has been said that the initial contacts were made in October 2001, a year before, and both AMLO and Carlos Slim have been quoted as the ones contacting New York´s former mayor. In fact it was Slim who paid Giuliani´s bill: $4.3 million in exchange for a report that should be elaborated in 6 months and that should analyze the reasons and solutions for crime in the Federal District.

Giuliani himself visited the Federal District on January 15th 2003 and was driven by Marcelo Ebrard through ten different urban scenarios being carried in a fleet of 10 armored cars and escorted by nearly 300 members of the Preventive Police. He arrived with two of his employees, former NY Police Commissioner and future Iraqi Interior Minister during the early occupation of the country and Maureen. Several of the places visited by Giuliani´s “expedition” were significant regarding public security such as Tepito, Buenos Aires, Roma, Condesa, Doctores, Nápoles and the Zona Rosa.

Marcelo Ebrard and Rudolph Giuliani during the visit to Mexico City in January 2003

After the “tour” -during which they took several photos with indigenous merchants selling artisanal artifacts- Giuliani and Ebrard gave a press conference in the Sheraton Alameda Hotel in which both men offered their points of view about the project. Giuliani assured that he had no interest in directing the DF police in the operative field. “We do not have an operative role. We are consultants and will give our best advice which will be analyzed by the Secretary -Ebrard- and competent authorities”.

Ebrard remarked on the importance of Giuliani´s work and denied that the services of the American had been hired as a political strategy to get votes as had been denounced by the PRI and PAN DF delegations. “This is not the flag of a political party. This is a complicated issue for the city and is not a political project developed in the short term. It is developed to transcend” he said.

Although the report was scheduled to be submitted in March 2003 Giuliani and his people finally handled it on August 7th and the following day Ebrard announced it publicly. 

The document was titled “Reporte Giuliani-SSP” and contained 146 different recommendations, extremely varied in their content. Nevertheless it must be said that the report presented severe deficiencies regarding several of the DF chronic public security problems. For example, only 9 of the 146 recommendations contained references to abuses by police units.

Another great flaw of the document is the incredibly high number of recommendation addressing the elimination of individuals seen as “provocative” -a pillar of the broken windows strategy- mainly street vendors, prostitutes, window wipers, franeleros -people who are paid to take care of parked cars-, street children or beggars. The report suggested that the relocation of such people as well as the creation of units such as the anti-graffiti patrol would encourage the civilized aspect of the DF and disrupt the feeling of insecurity and decay. The great size of Mexico's underground economy was -an still is- composed by people such as the ones labeled by the Giuliani report as anti-social elements and Ebrard saw in their elimination an easy task which could be achieved in the short term, although it wouldn't be so easy with the very well organized street vendors which in 2000 concentrated 30,000 individuals organized in 120 groups just in the historical center of the DF.

The report contained good proposals too, such as the encouragement of the use of statistical programs -mainly the CompStat method used by the NYPD- and the necessary reform of the prison system, corrupted to the bone. It too stressed the necessity for giving the Preventive Police investigative powers and resources to conduct their own investigations. Much of these changes exceeded the State legislation and required a modification of the Constitution of the Republic, which would only come in 2008 under president Calderon once the war on organized crime had formally begun.

Although at the time it was said that Marcelo Ebrard was using the Giuliani strategy as a banner with which to gain political notoriety the truth is that the Public Security Secretary started implementing several reforms in an effort to use the conclusions of Giuliani´s recommendations.

One of the first things he did was to create a special unit inside the preventive police in an effort to build stronger ties between the population and the law enforcement. This unit was called Unidades de Protección Ciudadana -UPC or Citizen Protection Units-. To create such a unit he was helped by retired SEDENA general Enrique Pérez Casas who Ebrard appointed as Subsecretary for Institutional Support in May 2003. Pérez Casas had met Ebrard in 1990 while both were working for the Government of Manuel Camacho Solís -Ebrard´s mentor- at a time when Pérez Casas had tried to implement a program to build a police unit similar to the Chilean Carabineros, a project that been met by boycott from inside the DF police due to the forms of accountability it proposed.

The original idea for UPC units was to place them in strategic areas of the Federal District in which they would create a new and better relationship with the population and in the future would progressively replace the preventive police.

Several of the changes that distinguished the UPCs from their preventive police colleagues were simple and logical but at the time translated into radical change for the DF police bodies. For example, the timetables were modified in such a way that UPC members worked for four days during eight hours per day after which they would have a free day. Under the old pattern members of the preventive police worked 24 hours per day with two free days between working days, an insane timetable.

Financial rewards were also used as a hook to catch the best candidates. Those members of the law enforcement that managed to enter into the UPCs -which happened only after they had passed an exam and undergone a specific education program- saw their wages rise to 8,500 pesos -$787-, a quantity that doubled the preventive police average salary.

Salary supplements were also used as a way of guaranteeing UPCs integrity. Under the new system police officers could get rewards for their results. Thus, the handling of numerous suspects or the seizing of weapons were met by financial rewards which were carefully established above the average price of a bribe or the cost of a gun in the black market so officers did not engage in corrupt transactions. And although this system turned out to be an excellent way for seizing weapons -seizures went from 300 yo 3.800 per year- it ended up being canceled after allegations by the DF human rights organizations that officers were artificially inflating the rates of detainees to obtain benefits.

New candidates for the UPCs received training in a special institution -the Instituto Técnico de Formación Policial or Technical Institute for Police Training- which was isolated from the rest of the police and directed by Enrique Pérez Casas.

An ambitious program was also used to get rid of elements that were opposed to reforms. According to Ebrard himself “ I worked under the assumption that 20% of the police was extremely corrupt, 20% of the police was very honest and the remaining 60% could be well administered through reforms”. To avoid firing thousands of officers at the same time and facing a police strike Ebrard developed a system of early retirement through which those elements opposed to reforms were encouraged to leave the preventive police and soon 70% of those elements were out of the law enforcement. 

Those that remained inside the preventive police and didn´t meet the necessary standards -absenteeism was particularly controlled- were dismissed. Between March 2003 and February 2004 Ebrard´s SSP got rid of 1,270 officers and suspended the jobs and salaries of 1,154 others. 

The contact between the law enforcement and the citizens was also resumed by Ebrard personally through several ways. Officers were required to identify personally to neighbors with their names and surnames in an effort to make them feel close to the areas they were in charge of, officers had also to gather signatures of citizens  as a way of demonstrating their patrolling. A new unit was also created using some of the UOC personnel, the “Policía de Barrio” or “Neighborhood Police”.

What is even more, Ebrard was the first Public Security Secretary of the DF to create a global security database which would interconnect the thousands of police officers working in the State thus implementing one of Giuliani´s top recommendations: the adoption of Compstat. The system created by Ebrard was named “Sistema de Información Policial” or SIP -Police Information System-. It was fed with info sent by patrolmen which was gathered, filtered and analyzed in order to create patterns of criminality and make statistical work. The SSP started working on it in November 2003 by hiring an external contractor. 

Ebrard´s maneuvers as head of the SSP were met at the same time by interesting initiatives from the State Government. On May 20th 2003 the Federal District´s legislative assembly passed the “Ley Orgánica de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal”, a law which regulated the SSP extensively establishing and distributing competences. The State Attorney's Office was also cleaned by updating the positions occupied by the people in charge of investigations -both attorney and the judicial police- regularly, which at the time was seen as a move to prevent corrupt practices. 

Despite this avalanche of reforms and modern initiatives there is a question levitating in the air, a question that still today is heavily disputed between the followers of AMLO and his detractors: was Ebrard´s public security program successful in reducing criminality?

A look at the criminality rates compiled by State authorities reveals that at some point the crime ratio diminished during Ebrard´s tenure as head of the SSP. After reaching its peak in 1999 the numbers of crimes started descending and during Ebrard´s reforms they did it a little bit more sharply. Car thefts -which accounted for nearly 35% of the total offenses reported to authorities descended from 119.25 incidents per day in 2000 to 72.82 in 2006. Robbery was reduced from 95,617 incidents in 2003 to 78,264 in 2006 -although it had accounted for the incredible number of 147,330 incidents in 1999- while assaults descended from 50,611 in 2002 to 40,316 in 2006. Sexual crimes -raping, specifically- was diminished too from the astonishing levels of 1999 in which 2,906 incidents were reported to the 1,169 incidents reported in 2006.

In the case of homicides the general tendency pointed towards diminishing levels, but the rates of decrease were not significantly sharp. In 1999 1,781 people were murdered in the DF and after a decrease for the next two years -2000 with 1,523 and 2001with 1,694- in 2002 -the year in which Ebrard took office- the old levels were reached when 1,759 people were murdered. From then on, levels would decrease slowly: 1,635 in 2003; 1,535 in 2004; 1,531 in 2005 and 1,510 in 2006.

Other statistics help to analyze the eminently punitive nature of Ebrard´s public security strategy, which favored repression tactics instead of preventive ones. Thus, in 2001 there were 22,055 prisoners inside the Federal District prison system. By 2006 the prison population had risen to 32,684. This means an increase of 67.4% of the prison population, a number that should be regarded as a success given the fact that one of the Mexican justice system's main problems is that very few of the people detained for committing crimes end up receiving prison sentences. 

The number of crimes being reported to the authorities changed too, and for good. In 2001 171,469 crimes were reported while in 2006 the number decreased to 149,273. This data should be handled with care given Mexico´s traditionally high rates of unreported crimes but could very well be contrasted with information regarding the change of citizen awareness regarding law enforcement.

In 1999 Transparencia mexicana had reported that 90% of the inhabitants of Mexico City had little or no confidence at all in the law enforcement. Between 2006 and 2001 the level of confidence was estimated to be as high as between 28% and 42%. 

Police efficiency increased too -by a 10% according to the SSP data-, although not as notably as it would have been expected. The response time for a UPC unit ranged from 2 to 8 minutes, much better than the performance of the preventive police.

And the recommendations of the Giuliani report regarding the involvement of the DF police in the investigation of crimes seem to have been implemented. In 2002 39.2% of the incidents answered by the police were car accidents and traffic issues. By 2007 this number decreased to 18.2% which meant that the DF police was now investigating other more serious issues.  

Ebrard´s Demise as Head of the DF SSP

Nevertheless the story of Ebrard´s reforms at the SSP would meet an abrupt end. On November 23rd 2004 three members of the PFP -Policía Federal Preventiva or Federal Preventive Police, a Federal law enforcement body in charge of conducting investigations regarding federal crimes- were conducting a surveillance operation in the San Juan Ixtayopan colony, in the Tláhuac political delegation in the East of Mexico City.

Víctor Mireles Barrera,Cristóbal Bonilla and Edgar Moreno Nolasco were taking photos in the surrounding of the Popol Vuh local school in search clues regarding an alleged drug distribution ring working in the area. Suddenly they were surrounded by locals who accused the policemen of being “robaniños” -children kidnappers- and blamed them for the recent kidnapping of local kids that have disappeared.

The mob grabbed the three men and beat them extensively using every tool available despite their efforts to identify themselves as agents of the law and their quest for help which was transmitted through radio and received by their superiors. It is still not known why but reinforcements never showed up and the policemen were left alone in the hands of the crowd who dragged them through the streets cheering and torturing the three men. At the same time a police security cordon of members of the PFP and local police was established two kilometers away from where the mob held their captives. 

The mob beating the three policemen using a eisbol bat and pipes

Who had time to show up, though, was the press. Dozens of reporters and cameraman gathered in Tláhuac and reported the lynching on live TV. A team of Televisa even interviewed Édgar and Víctor who desperately tried to identify them as members of the PFP and warned their superiors that they were going to be killed.

The political delegate of the demarcation, Fátima Mena, arrived at the scene and tried to speak with the mob but she was expelled. Marcelo Ebrard and his Sub Secretary Gabriel Regino flew over the area in a helicopter according to some reports. But reinforcements did not appear.

And the mob did what it was hoping for. Someone arrived at the scene carrying a gas can and burned Víctor Mireles Barrera and Cristóbal Bonilla alive. Everything was filmed and shown on TV. And when it was Égar´s turn finally members of the State Judicial Police´s Special Immediate Reaction Group, led by its chief Damián Canales and carrying machine guns managed to grab Édgar and get him out of Tláhuac.

The bodies of Víctor Mireles Barrera and Cristóbal Bonilla lie in the pavement while several policemen try to extinguish the flames

The crowd answered by kidnapping two other policemen -who would be later released unharmed- and rioting for several hours in the streets of San Juan Ixtayopan. 

The consequences of the Tlahuac´s lynching were profound and took place almost immediately. Three preventive policemen were sacked and an operation labeled as Operativo Ciclón -led by the Federal Investigative Agency or AI- was conducted in San Juan de Ixtayopan which was subjected to an almost military assault in search of the members of the lynching mob.

But the deepest political consequence affected AMLO´s State Government. On December 6th the President of the Republic, Vicente Fox, suspended a planned visit to Peru and ordered the removal of Marcelo Ebrard as head of the DF SSP and of José Luís Figueroa Cuevas as commissioner of the PFP in the DF. “We won't allow anybody to place himself above the law. We, as authorities, are the first ones to be accountable for always acting on the behalf of the law and to make the rule of law prevail” said the President, who gave AMLO 72 hours to designate a new Public Security Secretary.

Despite Ebrard´s unquestionable degree of responsibility in the Tláhuac affair it must be acknowledged that it was shared with other individuals, specially with the Federal Public Security Secretary and head of the PFP, Ramón Martín Huerta who was not only left untouched but encouraged by President Fox to conduct a reconstruction of the PFP.

The Tláhuac affair presented important contradictions. As former head of the CISEN -Mexico´s intelligence service at the time- Jorge Carrillo Olea said in an interview to La Jornada “what were they doing in such a little community conducting an intelligence operative?”. As Carrillo Olea explained, it was not the PFP´s duty to conduct investigations regarding drug retailing and he suggested that the operation probably was aimed at conducting an operation against urban cells of the Ejército Popular Revolucionario or EPR -a marxist oriented guerrilla group particularly active at the time-. 

“Ebrard cannot be made responsible for the individual conduct of the thousands of policemen under his control when the responsibility for sending the agents (to of whom were murdered) belongs to the federal body” concluded Carrillo Olea.

Marcelo Ebrard did not remain silent. “The President of the Republic, Vicente Fox Quesada, is afraid of what I can say regarding the Tláhuac incident and that is why he decided to remove me” he said. Ebrard too revealed to journalist that on November 23rd after the lynching had occurred President Fox didn´t even contact him to hear about the incident and insisted that it had been a political move to attack AMLO.

Ebrard was right when suggesting the political nature of Fox's operation to demote him as head of the DF SSP. In fact, Fox and AMLO were vicious enemies whose rivalry was fought through rhetoric declarations to the press, verbal outflows and shrouded attacks like the time when Fox forced AMLO to conduct a private conversation in the presence of two of his staunchest political enemies. 

The press at the time focused in the initial reluctance by AMLO to sack Ebrard from the SSP. What had been a personal feud between the President of the Republic and the Governor of the DF was fought indirectly, through the removing of AMLO´s most trusted man

In the process of attacking AMLO through the political elimination of Ebrard, President Fox decapitated the PFP´s structure of command. As we´ve said he removed the Commissioner of the PFP in Mexico city, José Luís Figueroa Cuevas -a SEMAR admiral who had an incredibly lengthy and prolific career in the Mexican intelligence committee- as well as eight other high ranking officials. And at the same time he confirmed Ramón Martin Huerta as head of the PFP although he was the main responsible for the presence of the police agents and their doings in Tláhuac on November 23rd. Interestingly enough Ramón Martín Huerta would die in less than a year, on September 21st 2005, when his Bell 412 helicopter crashed in a mountainous area in the State of Mexico. The information regarding this accident was sealed as a state secret for 12 years.

End of Part 1

SOURCES: Marca, Marco Ebrard´s public CV, Jornada, Jornada, Reforma, Jornada, El País, The Military, Political Power and Police Relations in Mexico CityJornada, New York Times, Diario de Debates de la Asamblea Legislativa del Distrito Federal, El Universal, La Jornada, Proceso, Proceso, La Jornada, Evaluando la “Estrategia Giuliani”: la Política de Cero Tolerancia en el Distrito Federal, Programa General de Desarrollo del Distrito Federal 2001-2006, Recuperación de la Ciudad de México: Reforma Policial en la Ciudad de México 2002-2008, Turismo y Patrimonio: Cincuenta Años de “Rescate” del Centro Histórico de la Ciudad de México, Jornada, Jornada, Jornada, El Universal, El Universal, Jornada, El Universal, Proceso, Ley Orgánica de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal, Jornada, Dilemas de la Seguridad Pública en la Ciudad de México y su Vínculo con la Federación, Jornada, Proceso, El País, El Universal, Boletín de Noticias del Congreso de Diputados, Jornada, Diario de Colima, El Universal,, El Mundo


  1. This will work. Keep China equipment out for Mexico national security. Going to need prison for all the criminals like San Salvador.

    1. China in Mexico is great for leveraging power against the domineering U.S.

      Also, San Salvador is a model to follow for small countries.

    2. This guy is a puppet.

    3. @5:24 El Salvador model will probably work for small nations but for mexico...too far gone. corruption is too far up

    4. 4:45 sounds like Sky Net program in China.

  2. Gonna build a great big beautiful security wall and it's not going to cost mexico a penny..
    Eyeball scanning at Oxxo if you wanna pay the light bill..
    Mexico bio-diversity ratings through the roof! doubt we will see MORENA losing the upcoming elections no matter what kind of a coalition they cobble together to challenge..
    The AMLO train chugging along too fast to lose much momentum..
    Look for this character to put in his 6 years, then when the sextenio's up, Lear jet to Málaga to enjoy his salad years counting his millions..

    1. i dont know what the hell any of this means

  3. Gran articulo. La seguridad es un tema central para nostrotros mexicanos, y es esencial que cualquier candidato presidencial aborde de manera efectiva esta problemática, pero no estoy seguro que Ebrad tiene la capacidad. Gracias redlogarthm

  4. Para ser un fanático de Redlogarythm, como yo, se requiere ser un lector apasionado y poseer un CI muy alto. Observa cómo los comentarios buscando torturas brillan por su ausencia.



  5. para estos artículos sobre la política mexicana, sería importante traducirlos al español. mas vale los lectores de mx que los pochos o gringos, si o no

    1. Interesante sugerencia, nos lo hemos planteado muchas veces. No obstante me gustaría preguntarte una cosa. ¿En tu opinión qué alcance tiene Borderland Beat entre lectores mexicanos que no sean bilingues?

  6. ¡Saludos desde El Salvador! 🇸🇻 Como sabes, nuestro presidente decidió tomar otra opción...y vamos a ver que pasa en diez o viente. Pero no creo que funcione en México. Intrigante artículo. Interesado en ver más. ¡Gracias!

    1. Muchas gracias por tu comentario compañero. La verdad es que la estrategia Bukele es algo extraordinario no ya en América Latina sino en todo el mundo. Estamos muy pendientes de la situación en tu país y esperamos publicar pronto algo al respecto. No obstante, como bien dices, se trata de países muy distintos. El Salvador es muy chiquito y el crimen organizado que exite en tu tierra es de tipo barrial. En México no creo que una estrategia de este tipo funcionase ya que tanto el nivel de violencia como el comportamiento y estrategia de las organizaciones criminales que hay es muy distinto.... Un abrazo bien fuerte

  7. I stopped reading after his enumerated plan. Nothing is going to change until you change the structural and systemic issues affecting public security here. That includes, but is not limited to, government corruption/complicity in organized crime, law enforcement corruption/complicity in organized crime, a toothless justice system, an apparent absence of a RICO type statute to start to dismantle the drug trafficking organizations (DTO's), policing the rural areas of the country where the DTOs have the greatest control, hiring MANY more police than they have now and training them properly and giving them the resources they need to police, bullets and lengthy jail terms (and extradition) - not hugs for murderers and traffickers, restoration of the citizen's confidence in government and law enforcement so that they actually report crimes (most crimes here are unreported), tough anti-corruption laws and an independent body to investigate, enforce, and jail corrupt public officials. The foregoing is what Mexico needs, not facial recognition. This man is engaging in theater, and they are going to deliver more of the same. Nothing he enumerated in his plan will make a dent in public safety without the structural and systemic issues corrected and a strong foundation replacing what is now a criminal government and law enforcement.

    1. You make good points. Mexico needs radical change.

    2. @8:19 absolutely right.

    3. @8:19. You are absolutely right in many of your points. Nevertheless you should consider several facts. There is no such thing such as a RICO statute in Mexico because its law system is similar to the Latin European ones and not to the anglo saxon system. What exist is a Federal Law Against Organized Crime, an instrument developed in the late 2000s and that condensates many of the crimes committed by criminal organizations. Mexico has also federal criminal tribunals specialized in certain types of crimes, drug trafficking included. What Mexico lacks is first money to implement such instrument, second enough police officers (as you pointed out very correctly) and third a stable and continuous public security programm focused on the long term, and this is something that can only be achieved with political capital and enough motivation, and they do not exist in present Mexico.
      Mexico has many of the instrument a modern State needs to fight organized crime efficiently, but it lacks the necessary will to implement them in an efficient manner.

      Best regards, Redlogarythm

    4. @Redlo, disagree. I know MX doesn’t have a RICO type statute - I’m saying they need one. What they have now does not permit the type of flexibility afforded the US when dismantling (wildly successfully btw) such criminal organizations. Mexico DOES have the money, but lacks the will bc it’s largely a criminal government. Mexico’s public safety issues have zero to do with tech and such (although such is indeed useful). As I said, public safety issues here are wholly structural and systemic.

  8. I believe in the end it will be Claudia Sheinbaum who is postulated as Morena’s candidate for president. After decades together AMLO and Marcelo have the dirt on each other. AMLO considers Claudia as his political daughter who will maintain his 4T forth transition to the letter. There is a chance Ebrard will become more accommodating to the neo conservatives than AMLO would like. While born in México from birth Marcelo is a dual national with both French and Mexican citizenship. Some say left to his own devices after this sexenio ends he would like to retire and live at his palacios home in France. Time will tell.

  9. How do Mexican people view the historic days of the PRI rule? I question if they are nostalgic about the safety of that period

  10. sorry but this guy sounds like another one of those WEF globalist people...

  11. Hey Red!

    Great article. The section on Ebrard's past and record is helpful. I did not know most of that. The Ebrard - Rudy Giuliani mashup is fascinating. I had no idea he was ever involved in Mexico much less helped create a security document.

    Much of Ebard's plan as I understand it aims to increase the capacity of security forces in monitoring, identifying and tracking down criminals. The idea of connecting all Mexican databases is smart. He is sure to have US support in this, as they have pushed for years to pay for Mexico's border technology - they want Mexico to have scanners, camera's etc.

    That all sounds good, but in my view that’s not the problem with Mexico's security forces - it’s the lack of will. How many times have we seen security forces waste time or fail to investigate a crime when a normal citizen is involved, and then another instances locate and capture the criminal in an instant? (Matamoros kidnapping).

    I would argue it’s not entirely an issue of technology and capacity. I don't disagree with his ANGEL plan. But he needs more.

    This is actually an advantage of AMLO - I think he correctly diagnosed the main illness in Mexico as corruption. Unfortunately, I would argue his cure did not work.

    Excellent work. I enjoyed reading. Added to my zotero for future reference.



  12. Joke? Lol nice try. Love to hear all this BS around this time. None of this will make a difference. It's don't matter what you do. When someone is gonna kill your kids or spouse you gonna do anything they want. We all know that the president will be who the cartels allow. Your stupid if you think other wise. What a fucking clown.

  13. Waiting on the next parts...


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