May 2, 2008

Terror on everyone’s mind

By Mariana Martinez

15 dead, six wounded and four arrested are not the only results of the so called “narco-killing” that happened early past Saturday in Tijuana.

The shootings, resulted in partial closure of Hospital General, a facility that mostly cares for the poor and uninsured; several federal and state buildings closed or under heavy guard and above it all, a strong smell of fear lingering across the empty plazas and restaurants. Terror is on everyone’s minds.

Unidentified kids look at bloodstains and bullet holes in a wall at the scene of an early morning shooting along Tijuana's Insurgentes Boulevard. The shoot-out was followed by a persecution involving suspected members of organized crime and police and several other resulted in several other shootouts. Photo - David Maung.

As the official answer to the shootings that happened in three different locations across the city on Saturday april 26th, the federal government sent 100 military to Baja California, to beef up the straight of the 600 element already fighting organized crime and drug trafficking in the Northern border state.

To greet the soldiers send by president Calderon, were Colonel Sergio Aponte Polito, in charge of military operations in the state and the State Attorney, Rommel Moreno Man-jarrez, who have recently been at the center of a public brawl.

The violent events took place only days after Colonel Aponte Polito send a letter to local media, publicly naming at least 41 members of police forces, who are “directly involved with the commission of crime and corruption” in Tijuana.

The letter tells in great detail about events of extortion, corruption, murder and kidnap-pings,’ and it was the public answer to a comment by Moreno Manjarrez, who quotes as saying that the Colonel should “proofed the corruption he alleges.”

In the public event to greet the new law-enforcement officials were hundreds of cops and state agents, and the state governor José Guadalupe Osuna Millán asked the Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) to speed up the investigation of the recent shootings and said the restructuring and cleaning of the State Attorneys office is “urgent.”

But no speech or public display of police power can shadow facts.

Colonel Aponte Polito hit the spot about corruption. The State Attorneys office just confirmed the involvement of two State Policemen and one Municipal Police in the shootings.

The State Policemen, who remain at large are Eduardo Logan Rojas and José Valentín García Topete, who had been in service for 6 and 13 years respectably.

The third policeman belonged to the municipal police and is identified as 22 year-old Sergio Leonardo Jiménez Domínguez, who had been in service for just one year.

The guns, taken from the various shooting sights, were found to be involved in at least eight other high-impact crimes, that have shaken the state recently. According to authorities they have been liked with eight murders, including two municipal police, the recent shooting at the Tijuana police station in Centenario; attacks against Beta officers, the Rosarito Security Chief and Mi Chate Restaurant in old Colonia Libertad, as well as the robbery of a money truck that resulted in a shoot out in a busy city street.

The guns where also lined to the “rescue” of a body from the Coroners Office in Ensenada. The body was recovered from a helicopter accident in the off-road race known as Baja 1000 and left two municipal policeman dead.

It is believed that the body, recovered by at least 40 armed and masked men aboard 11 armored vehicles was a high ranking member of the Arellano Felix Cartel or even a member of the family.

According to police records there have been 190 violent deaths in Tijuana, that have been linked to organized crime, making the last shootings seem like a drop in the bucket.

“We are tired” said Jimena, who owns a Japanese restaurant and asked her last name to be withheld, “its even worse when it turns out it’s the same cops who are involved: its such a terrible feeling of anger and fear.”

Besides tranquility, Tijuana businesspeople like Jimena, especially the ones in service and hospitality are feeling another kind of insecurity, a financial one.

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