The Roundtable: Occupy San Diego, Medical Marijuana is no more, Tijuana's new police chief.
October 7, 2011 1:21 p.m.
Guests: David Rolland, editor, San Diego CityBeat
Katie Orr, metro reporter, KPBS News
Jose Jimenez, social media editor, Fronteras Desk, KPBS News
CAVANAUGH: Downtown San Diego gets occupied. And medical marijuana shops may be put out of business. This is KPBS Midday Edition Roundtable. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Friday, October 7th. And I'd like to welcome my guests on Midday Edition Roundtable. David Rolland is editor of San Diego City beat of the welcome.
ROLLAND: It's great to be here.
CAVANAUGH: Katie Orr is KPBS metro reporter. Good afternoon, Katie.
ORR: Hi, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And Jose Luis Jimenez is social media editor for the fronteras desk and KPBS, welcome.
JIMINEZ: Thank you, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: And our listeners are invited to join this conversation. They are welcome to join it at 1-888-895-5727. Or you can tweet your comments at KPBS mid-day. We start with the movement that plans to occupy San Diego starting with a march through downtown this afternoon. David Rolland, we've got high unemployment, a double dip recession is predicted, growing disparity between rich and poor. It's no wonder that a grass-roots protest is taking place across the nation. But will occupy San Diego be able to get San Diegans out of our cars and march? What do you think?
ROLLAND: That remains to be seen, what happens this march. I think 3:30 or 4:00 people are meeting in children a park on the north side of the train tracks on the other side across from the Convention Center there. Then they're going to march to the civic center, and who knows where they're gonna go from there? Because there is a simultaneous Jewish holiday tradition service that's going on down there. And both groups are being respectful of one another, and they're going to figure out where to go from there, but to answer your question, I don't know. Certainly San Diego doesn't have the reputation of being as sort of militant, I guess, for lack of I better term as places like LA, San Francisco, New York. So we'll see.
CAVANAUGH: Has the movement in your opinion been able to articulate its message to the extent that people can grasp onto it and know what it's about?
ROLLAND: That's the big question. There is a debate raging in these early days. These are the early days of this movement. And right now, they're peaceful setting it up so that it forms organically. They are famously leaderless, there is not a set set of demands. But I come down on the side that eventually, this group is going to have to let leaders emerge and they're going to have to be able to articulate specific goals. They need to -- my way of thinking, they need to leave things like the opposition to the death penalty and complaints about the wars going on. They need to really, really focus on the economy, number one -- well, actually number two. Number one is campaign finance reform and lobbying reform. The problem here, and I think they're doing a very good job of articulating this so far, the problem is not as conservative critics of the movement would have you believe. The problem is not corporations in and of itself. The problem is corporate influence on government through campaign financing and lobbying. So that really is the root of the problem. To my way of thinking, I think you really need to focus on finning a way to remedy the Supreme Court's current take that money equals speech.
CAVANAUGH: But you know, the organizers that we've talked to, and granted, we've only talked to two people involved in occupy San Diego, they seem to think that the of this movement comes from this wide grab bag of pick your message, pick your cause kind of protest. Because they seem to want to create an alternative to the kind of a structure that we have with the corporations on top, and not necessarily a challenge to the roots of capitalism, but to change capitalism. And that means a lot of things. It could mean the death penalty, it could mean a whole bunch of things. So what is your response to that, if it stays that way, it won't work?
ROLLAND: I think a lot of those things -- and I'm sympathetic to them, and far be it from me to tell them how to run their movement. But just -- I think that a lot of those things that they're talking about are symptoms of the problem. And you need to attack the root of the problem, and that is the cozy relationship between corporate entities, specifically the financial services sector, and government. There is a revolving door between government and the private sector, both in terms of being on corporate board it is of directors and lobbying firms. There is a assistant revolving door there. And that is the root of the problem.
JIMINEZ: Like you just said, they have all these lists of grievances, but on the flip side, do they have goals that they want to reach? Have they stated what they hope to get out of this march?
ROLLAND: Well, that's -- I think that's what we're saying. Those goals right now are a little Amorphous, and they're not -- I think they're purposefully not specifically articulated. I'm just saying that I think they need to be articulated sooner rather than later.
ORR: I think it's interesting, Maureen, the timing, we've been in this recession for a couple years. Why didn't we see this before? And maybe it's because they're afraid we are going back into a recession that they've decided to step up. It's interesting too that it seems to be growing. It started, I believe, in New York with a smaller protest, and now it's growing across the country. So whereas some people might have been able to blow it off in the beginning, it is taking on power. We're seeing politicians talk about it. We saw the Republicans at one point calling it class war fare, and Obama embraced that term in his news difference the other day saying maybe this is class war fare, maybe we need to look at that. It'll be interesting to see how that plays on out in the political elections.
CAVANAUGH: And how it plays out here in San Diego. Have any politicians, have any unions come out in support of occupy San Diego?
ROLLAND: I haven't seen any politicians, really get involved. And to occupy way of thinking, that's a good thing. They don't want politicians involved. They're distrustful of politicians. They're also a little bit distrustful in some camps of the unions. Not distrustful, but they worry about people coming in and coopting the message and coopting the movement. However, in San Diego, the unions -- I know that San Diego and imperial county's laborer council is going to have folks out there today. And I think that's a good thing. And this is the point I was about to make, Katie, when you talk about the growth of the movement, what unions do is unions bring out people. And these people are real people. They have real jobs, real working class jobs, real middle class people. That, I believe is what this movement needs in order to really catch fire and really be effective and capture the imagination of the 99% who they say they are. They are everybody but the 1% of the extremely wealthy in this country. And connected. And they need people, they need families, they need children out there, they need real people. And real stories, real narratives of financial hardship.
CAVANAUGH: Sarina is on the line calling us from San Diego. Welcome to the program.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you so much for taking my call. I'm very heartened to see people across the country wake up and say we want change. However, change begins at the ballot box. And for the last 2 or 3 decades, voting in this country has gone -- it's abysmal. People do not get out and vote. I don't think they contact their representatives, their senators, and it's important that we do that. Yes, we have a representative government. But we are the people and we need to get involved.
CAVANAUGH: Sarina, thank you very much for the call. And bringing it back, if I can, to specifically the Occupy movement that's going on across the nation, there are a lot of similarities, even the White House is drawing similarities to the tea party movement. Are they the same, do you think, David?
ROLLAND: Kind of. In a way, I think that time will tell. What the tea party did was they kind of started a couple years ago, I mean, I don't know if this was the actual origin, but you remember those town hall meetings that those conservatives would go and they would disrupt and they would shout down the legislature who was back home having the town hall meetings with constituents talking largely about the healthcare bill and that sort of thing. That's when they did their sort of civil disobedience. But then when they did was really effective is they got people elected. They were able to channel their rage into actual change and actually getting people elected. So time will tell if this has the same trajectory.
JIMINEZ: That's one of the points I was going to make, and back to the point about the ballot box. The tea party from the start seemed to be a political movement. They have showed up at town hall meetings with politicians, the ire was directed at politicians. Whereas this is starting off in a much different place. Kind of on corporate America and wall street. And she makes the point of the ballot box. That's where change is effective. It goes back to at some point for this movement to be effective, they're going to have to specify and goals and start working toward them.
ORR: I was thinking to the point Dave was making about unions earlier, it's interesting, San Diego's indicates is interesting in that this is such a battle going on right now between the public unions here and some of our lawmakers, the whole pension reform act is that are we going to do away with city pensions? Are we going to outsource some of our city services away from union members? I just -- on some levels, San Diego really is ground 0 for union battle battles in the entire country. It's very representative of what's going on in the entire country. If there is ever a place for unions to latch onto it and promote it, this might be the city.
CAVANAUGH: Martin is calling from City Heights. Good afternoon, welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much. I've been going down to occupy San Diego meetings on behalf of activists San Diego, and certainly not a spokes person but a participant and an observer. And the amount of raw energy of a very multigenerational, even though dominated by young, idealistic folks, is really quite impressive. In terms of the question of goals, while there are no at this point articulated goal, and there will be, I think, as time goes on, the sense that monopoly capitalism has -- and corporate capitalism has really taken and stolen the democracy, stolen the future, given to the 1% against the 99%. Has drawn us into endless war, and I would say the issue of the wars and part of the deficit, it's part of the whole lie that's going on. And I would really, really encourage people to come down at 4:00 today to friendship park on front street and march to the civic center and back. It's an extraordinary process, and nobody should want to miss this.
CAVANAUGH: Thanks so much. Let me take a quick call from heather in Carlsbad. Welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thank you. I'm calling in today because I just find -- I saw a parallel of something I experienced this morning with the occupy movement. I was at my son's elementary school, and we had a monthly meeting with our principal. The district I'm in right now currently is fating huge budget shortcomings, and parents after recent changes to the courtrooms this year were cut for hurting kids, are starting to really stand up and take notice. And I was listening to the previous caller talk about that it's time for people and multigenerations to stand up and take notice. And our debate this morning, it became a debate, it became a very heated discussion about how things can change, what we can do as average, ordinary citizens going about our day with our busy schedules and our children and how school is affecting them. So I actually appreciate occupy's broad message right now. Because I think people can pick their problem and, if anything, maybe it is just a call to action, to get people to rise up and take notice and get active.
CAVANAUGH: Heather, that's a really insightful comment because that really seems to be the essence of this protest, that people are just sort of frustrated about a lot of things, and they haven't had any outlet for that. And this may be the outlet. What do you think, Dave?
ROLLAND: I agree with you with that that call was incredibly insightful. She points out that the manifestations of the economy and the joblessness are so many, and so varied. That's why I say that people need to talk -- if all the media descends on this thing today, I would encourage the people who go down there that are asked questions by the media to rather than kind of talk about just sort of express a broad rage, talk about your own hardship, your own financial problems because they're so varied. It could be somebody who's absolutely crushed by student loans, it could be talking about the cutbacks in school it is. Like our caller was talking about. Just really, really focus on specific hardship. And I think that's the message that will resonate with people.
CAVANAUGH: And just to wrap it up a sign from the occupy movement, the middle class is too big to fail. I think that probably says it. I want to thank you all very much.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are David Rolland, editor of San Diego City beat. Katie Orr, and Jose Luis Jimenez.
San Diego's struggle to establish guidelines for medical marijuana clinics has been Trumped this week by the federal government. A crack down against dispensaries was announced yesterday against federal prosecutors. And Katie, you've just been listening to a news conference conducted by U.S. attorneys in California. And I believe this news conference would to clarify what's going on. So did it accomplish that? And what did they say?
ORR: Well, basically what they say is they are going to focus on large scale commercial growers. And what they are calling retail stores. So if you go down the street here in San Diego and you see a sign for a medical marijuana dispensary, those are the kind of places they are targeting. They said they're not interested in this going after a cancer patient who grows it in their backyard to make them feel better or that person's caretaker. They say they're after the more big money operations. They say in their opinion, this state law has been hijacked and it's no longer for people who are sick. It's being used by growers to make massive amounts of money. And of course, obviously, there are people in San Diego and around the state who would dispute that. But these federal attorneys say that, again, the movement has been hijacked, it's out of hand, it's increasing crime. They say San Diego is the number one source for marijuana in the country, that people are coming here with fake -- you know, to get bogus medical prescriptions.
CAVANAUGH: Do you mean California?
ORR: Yes, I'm sorry, coming to California to get bogus medical prescriptions just to get drugs, and they say they are now to start going after these store front dispensary, and the land owners in an effort to shut them down.
CAVANAUGH: What does that mean for clinics here in San Diego?
ORR: It means that they could be getting a all right pretty soon, if nay haven't already, saying that they have 45 days to shut down their operation or they'll face either forfeiture, the federal government will come and seize the property, and everything in it. Or they could face criminal prosecution in some cases. The attorney said that they got the feeling that a lot of growers thought that this was all talk. And they said it's not. And we are going to come after you. And no matter what the state law says, it is a violation of federal law to distribute marijuana, and that they're going to go after them.
CAVANAUGH: I've got so many questions on this. But I'll --
ROLLAND: I'll bet!
CAVANAUGH: About San Diego again, what kind of dispensaries would qualify? Do we know how many there might be that qualify under this particular crack down?
ORR: Well, there are -- I think the estimate, correct me if I'm wrong, I think there's about 160 dispensaries in San Diego. It's hard to know because they're not regulated. So no one is really keeping track. But from what these attorneys would say, and they acknowledge they don't have a lot of resources. So they're -- and it will go in phases. So their first focus seems to be on the people making a lot of money. Here in San Diego, U.S. attorney Laura Duffey sent out letters to 12 dispensaries that city attorney Jan Goldsmith had targeted because he said they were in clear violation of a state law that says you have to be at least 600 feet away from a school, and these dispensaries were not. So he was targeting them. She has sent them letters saying they need to close in 45 days or the landowners would risk losing that property, and everyone else could face criminal prosecution. So that's where they're starting here. Where they go from there, who knows? Again, they maintain, this is against federal law and say they are really going to focus on it. Because in their mind, they really focused a lot today on the kids. They said this is harmful to children. Again, obviously medical marijuana supporters probably would argue with that. But they say making marijuana in general more acceptable to kids, that they don't think that's a good thing, and increasing crime.
CAVANAUGH: I want to open this up to our panel and to our callers. I seem to remember that the Obama administration specifically said that they were not going to do this. That they were going to have sort of a hands-off attitude about anything having to do with prosecuting medical marijuana in California.
ORR: Well, and that position has seemed to evolve in recent years. The city attorney -- excuse me, the U.S. attorneys, their reason, is that it's become more and more of an issue. They listed cases they've prosecuted, and there's a lot of money involved and a lot of destruction to -- they were saying public land is being destructed because people are growing it in forests. That's what they say. But you're right, I talked to medical marijuana advocates yesterday, he said, what is the deal? You told us that you were going to basically look the other way. We've been trying to get our local regulations in place so that we can run responsible business, and now you're hitting us with these federal crack downs. So they're confused.
CAVANAUGH: We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Ariel is calling from Golden Hill. And good afternoon, welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: Hi, how are you?
CAVANAUGH: Just great, thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to comment on our speaker's comment that the people that are patronizing these so called commercial dispensaries are in fact medical patients. And I be know that that can be argued, and that's what I'd like to argue for. And I also agree that we have gone through so much. I've spoken to people that run my dispensaries that I frequent. And they have gone through so much to try and just answer everything that's been demanded of them. All this new legislation that's come in, all the specifications, and now to have this threat of a federal crack down is really unfair. And I think there's going to be some resistance to it. I think at least, I feel, I'm very upset about this. So definitely California is not going to take this lying down. And I just wanted to make a comment in defense of these dispensaries because they've done a lot of good and made a lot of progress.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Ariel for the phone call. Jose?
JIMINEZ: This is kind of classic in these situations. It starts off in good intentions, and then probably like the U.S. attorney's office, some people have gotten involved, and have bad intentions and it tends to spoil it for all. I think we're setting up here a pretty clear states versus federal rights battle in court. If somebody gets convicted, and they get some support behind them, this could go all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide in terms of this issue, who does -- what law does prevail? Is it the will of the people in a particular state or the law of the land and the federal law?
CAVANAUGH: Because this wink wink nod nod thing that's been going on between the state and federal governments over legalizing medical marijuana in this case had to come to a showdown eventually, don't think you think David?
ROLLAND: Yes, absolute. And it really all depends on who is in the White House. The root of the problem, here I am going back to the root of the problem again, is the fact that the federal government classifies marijuana as a schedule-one drug. That means that it is considered among the most dangerous drugs known to man and that it has no medicinal value. We all know now that that is not true. We all know that it does have certain medical value for people with certain symptoms and problems.
CAVANAUGH: And people still fight that notion though.
ROLLAND: Yeah --
CAVANAUGH: They still fight that notion that you should be able to take a capsule and the smoking and bad for you. And it doesn't have that much of a medicinal --
ROLLAND: Smoking is bad for you. Smoke suggest bad for your lungs. There's no question about it.
CAVANAUGH: So I don't believe that this is -- even the medicinal quality of this is even completely universally accepted.
ROLLAND: Nothing is ever going to be universally accepted. Climate change is not universally accepted.
CAVANAUGH: This is true!
ROLLAND: But for people who know what they're talking about, it is universally accepted.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Dave.
ROLLAND: So the problem is, it's still a schedule-one drug, and Congress has shown no willingness to change that. What you have here is when you have more socially conservative people in the White House, you're going to have a DEA that cracks down. And you're going to have that conflict with states that have tried to make marijuana available to people who need it. When Obama came in, as you folks talking about, there was a memo that went out in 2009 that said -- that really sent the signal. It was vague, but it sent a signal to all of us that the Obama administration was not going to make marijuana a priority. That the DEA raids were going to stop. And largely, they did sort of. It was dormant on this issue. But if really has been ramping up. And earlier this year, they tried to clarify that statement. And they have been sending out messages to governors in other states, and as we find out this week, they're sending these letters out to the dispensaries saying all this is going to stop now. So something has changed. This is huge. This is a landmark week in the ladies and gentlemen conversation over marijuana. And I think it's bound to happen. Just like gay marriage, marijuana is on sort of that fulcrum where it's teetering back and forth, and eventually, it will, I think it'll fall toward the side that marijuana is not as dangerous as people once thought it was.
JIMINEZ: Of course we should remember we are coming up to an election year. That might have a role to play in this. But I'm curious about the -- the single-person grower. Once you start going down this road, at what point do you consider a person just a single person grower, or does he become a dealer? I remember in covering the Courts several years ago, they prosecuted a man who rented a how the in Fallbrook, and the whole house was full of marijuana plants. And his argument was he was doing this for medical purpose. He had a card. And his doctor came in and testified. So we start going down this road. Is there some limit?
ORR: Well, they didn't specifically get into if two people are in a house and they're growing five plants, they're good -- they didn't that get into that. It was more look like we're not going to go after cancer patients. We're very compassionate in that regard. But Laura Duffey spoke about a case we saw recently in Pacific Beach where a man went into an apartment where he knew marijuana was being grown, and he subsequently get stabbed. And she made the point that the people involved in that case, the man who was stabbed and the people in the apartment were not the ones that called the police. He had called his friend to come pick him up, and his friend called the police. So just to make -- her point, she is making the point that this is a lot of crime involved in these dispensaries but that doesn't get report happened because certainly the operators don't want to bring in the police, if they don't have to. She was saying that the -- in the first six months of 2011, the San Diego police reported 15 burglaries, and three reported robberies of medical marijuana retail stores in San Diego. And again she said that number may be higher. She said, you know, and in is all her thing, also that the people, the operators have their own guns and things for protection. So she was alluding to the fact that maybe things would escalate. So in her view, it's a state issue as well.
CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Maurice is calling from Chula Vista. Welcome to the show.
NEW SPEAKER: How we doing today?
CAVANAUGH: Just fine thank you.
NEW SPEAKER: I'm way against what they're doing. There's a lot more things to be blowing our money on than messing with people that need it medicinally. There are definitely people who need that stuff. And that stuff definitely works for them. And to be spending our tax dollars for a bold show of politicalness, that's bogus. And they need to be stopping that stuff. And they went through all -- they jumped through all those hoops for the government, got all their licenses, and I don't even smoke, and I'm not even involved. But I see what a scam it is. They make spend all that money and make you jump through the hoops, then they slip the hoop out from under you. That's not right.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you so much for the call. That's one of the point, isn't? San Diego has had a heck of a time trying to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. And there's really no fees involved because they can't legally do it here. We have no regulations; is that right?
ORR: Oh, yeah, there are no regulations, former regulations in San Diego. We went through this whole thing. They have had a task force, they went through this whole thing, tried to get an ordinance passed. Patient care association, a group of medical marijuana advocates collected enough statutes, got it overturned. So we're basically at square one.
ROLLAND: They do have some regulations in terms of how much marijuana a patient can have and they set up some guidelines regarding relationships between patients and care givers and how many plants somebody can grow. And that happened a few years ago in 2006 or something like that. But as Katie is talking about, yeah, we just went through this rigamarole of how to do the land use regulations, how to set up a framework for these cooperatives to exist legally in San Diego. And they did their best. But the medical marijuana advocates were not satisfied with what the city council came up with. So they threatened successfully threatened a ballot initiative to overturn what the council came up with. And so the council just said, NO, we don't want to fight that. And we'll just repeal our ordinance. And as Katie says, we're back to square one in terms of the land use.
ORR: And on this news conference I was listening into today, there were 40 reporters on this, and some of them did talk about the taxes. In some cities, you pay your permits, you have a business, and you pay taxes. And if you close these down, you don't get those taxes anymore. And certainly we all know California, we're not awash in money right now. So is this something we want to do away with? But the U.S. attorneys say, it violets federal law. We don't care.
ROLLAND: And more people out of jobs.
CAVANAUGH: Is California the only state that is now being targeted in this way as far as you know?
ORR: I don't believe so. I think we were talking about governments of other states have been sent similar letters.
ROLLAND: I was talking -- I was on twitter with Christopher Catalogo from the UT who's covering this closely, and he brought up a couple of states where similar things are happening. And I happened to have read last night about Rhode Island, the governor of Rhode Island was trying to set up a law, create legislation that would allow for dispensaries to exist. And the U.S. attorney there sent a message to Lincoln Chaffey, the governor of Rhode Island, I believe, saying don't bother. Because we're not going to allow it.
CAVANAUGH: Well, okay then that goes back to what Jose was saying. Have you heard anything Katie, or is it too early about what legal proceedings, what kind of response that is getting from medical marijuana activists?
ORR: Well, this all just came down yesterday. And I was speaking to someone from the San Diego chapter of Americans for safe access. And he was saying you have to talk to your lawyer. He wasn't recommending they fold up shop right away, but it's certainly -- the U.S. attorneys were pretty blunt. They'll take your business, they'll take that land.
ROLLAND: And landowner, I think property owners too. The landlords.
ROLLAND: Are also on the hook here.
ORR: Right, exactly. They will take it. He said we have the right to do it, we will do it, we'll take everything associated request it. So I'm sure these operatives are -- operators are all consulting with their attorneys right now.
CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you very much.
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. My guests are David role abdomen, editor of San Diego City beat, Katie Orr, KPBS metro reporter, and Jose Luis Jimenez, social media editor for the fronteras desk and KPBS. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727.
With the death toll from drug gangs increasing again in Tijuana, the choice of Tijuana's new police chief becomes both ironic and controversial. Jose, who is that nominee?
JIMINEZ: Well, he is Alberto Capella, an attorney and a civilian. And he was police chief under the previous administration from 2007 to 2009. And under his tenure is when the drug war really exploded. Throwing some figures out for context, in 2007, Tijuana had about 300 and some odd deaths. In 2008, it exploded to over 800.
CAVANAUGH: You were, I believe, covering a lot of the drug cartel war in Tijuana at that time. Can you tell us -- remind us what those dark days were like?
JIMINEZ: Yes. There were pitched battles on the street, running gun battles between two gang, they would go into hospital fist they didn't get a sup, and kill them there. People were very, very frightened. They would tell loved ones, call me as soon as you get somewhere, to make sure they arrived okay. And I would leave the office at night about 6:00, and it looked like 1 or 2:00 in the morning. The streets were empty. And this is a city of over a million people.
CAVANAUGH: What did Alberto Capella do in his first role to combat that violence?
JIMINEZ: Apparently not much. Because he was replaced shortly thereafter by Julian Leyzaola, who's a conditional with the army.
CAVANAUGH: Did it take everyone by surprise?
JIMINEZ: I think the level of violence did take everybody by surprise. Basically -- for the most people, Tijuana had been controlled by the Arellano Felix drug cartel, and that kept the peace. And with the arrest of the senior members of the cartel, another neighboring drug cartel saw the opportunity and came in. And like I said, this was open assassinations in restaurants, shoot outs in broad daylight. It really caught everybody by surprise. And I think that's why the former mayor, even though he had a point, realized something needed to be changed.
CAVANAUGH: He was replaced by Julian Leyzaola, who is largely yetted with stops the worst of some of the drug cartel violence in Tijuana. Where is he now?
JIMINEZ: He's in la Ciudad Juarez. When the new mayor got elected here in Tijuana, Bustamante, he wanted to make a change. And Leyzaola was let go, and he ended up in Juarez where he's trying to duplicate the model he made in Tijuana. And the key to -- they say to, what worked in Tijuana was he created a close alliance with the military. First of all, he got rid of a lot of corrupt officers. That was the first thing he did. And second of all, he created a close alliance with the military to coordinate their efforts in fighting crime.
CAVANAUGH: Now, the most recent, before Capella, was, Gustavo Huerta. Why was he fired?
JIMINEZ: Upon well, background on that, I was talking to David shirk who is a long time border expert here. And he explained that Bustamante wanted to bring in his own person, a civilian. Can he received a lot of pressure from federal authorities in Mexico saying, hey, look, this model has worked for you guy, you don't necessary he want to make a radical change now. You should stick with it. Then he named Duarte, who was captain for the Mexican army as a chief. But apparently they didn't get along too well. And obviously it's important for the police chief and the mayor to get along well. And then they -- they believe that is why the change was made now.
CAVANAUGH: There was also a scandal though earlier this year involving police officers and a woman in custody and some were speculating that that might have precipitated the downfall of Huerta.
JIMINEZ: Well, experts are now saying -- they're pointing to that, yes, it was a woman who was taken into custody and basically she offered to do a striptease for being released, and the officer said yes. Somebody had the bright idea to film it, and it leaked to a newspaper, and the commander of that area, and the commander of the area and the officers were subsequently fired. I think that was just the excuse to make the change because again, Bustamante, since he came into office, first of all he's a businessman down there. Comes from a long, long -- he owns a lot of business interests down there. Since he's gotten into office, he's had this narrative of Tijuana is safe again, we're open for business, economic on back. Especially for tourism, tourism has gone way down. And this is part of his narrative. Look, things have gotten so good that we're starting to remove the military from the government, and civilians are starting to take control again.
CAVANAUGH: The military, I know it was controversial on a lot of different levels, but the military taking over law enforcement in Tijuana, in Baja California, was credited with really stopping the most egregious violence from the drug cartels. So what would be the motivation -- is Bustamante that confident in Tijuana's resurgence as a safe city that he's willing to put the very man in charge that was fired before these terrible outbreaks of violence started?
JIMINEZ: That is the one that has everybody scratching their head. Why -- people can understand why the move. It's kind of a PR move, an image thing, people can understand that reason. But why choose this person in particular? That's what has everybody scratching their heads, and people aren't clear. I know Capella was a popular person prior to being named chief. He was a victim crimes advocate. So it could be just speculation at this point. People really don't have an answer. It could be that his popularity with the people will make -- again make the police kind of -- make the people trust the police department again.
ORR: Is it possible that nobody else wants the job?
JIMINEZ: That also could be. That could be a possibility. The police chief in Tijuana has been targeted. As a matter of fact, Capella was targeted when he was police chief, and Leyzaola has reported several attempts against his life too. That could be Abe possibility.
CAVANAUGH: Mayor Bustamante says -- wants to portray the image that Tijuana is a safe city to come and visit. I'm just wondering, what is a more objective take on that? What have you been hearing about the safety? About how safe people are who live in Tijuana? And visitors to the city.
JIMINEZ: There's no doubt. From the levels of violence in 2008, it's way down. Like I described before, spectacular shoot outs in broad daylight, people being attacked in restaurants, that is pretty much gone. But the violence is still very much higher than it's been historically. Now it's more in the outlying areas, local drug gangs vying for control of the trade. That's where the violence is. It's still not back to where it was before the spike. But it has gotten better.
ORR: Maureen, not in Tijuana, I went down to Rosarito for a weekend a while back, and it was shock to be me how empty it was. It was empty. My friend and I were there walking around in the middle of the day to have lunch, and there was nobody. And it was sad. I mean -- we went to one restaurant, and they were so happy that we were there. But at the same time, we're sitting there eating, and an armored truck drives by with machine guns. And I'm not going to lie. It makes you a little nervous. Like, what's going on here? I've been to Mexico many times when I was growing up. Never seen anything like that. So justified or not, there is a perception that it is -- it's a little nervous, you get a little nervous when you go down there. And certainly, I'm not someone who is very familiar with Tijuana and Rosarito, I'm probably more of a casual visitor, but from that perspective, you think twice.
JIMINEZ: Exactly. And that's one of the things Bustamante is trying to address. That does shock a visitor to see, exactly, a hum V and soldiers dressed in their uniforms with M 16s, and most of them cover their faces. So they're also wearing masks. That is unnerving. I think that's one of the things that Bustamante is trying to address.
ORR: I agree with Katie, the sadness of it all. I have friends -- I'm not a huge visitor to TJ. Just because for me, it's just such a hassle getting back. That's the reason I don't want to G. It's not because I'm afraid. But I have friends that just absolutely love going down there all the time because in Tijuana they have such an exciting visual arts scene, there's such exciting music trends going on, it's I really vibrant place. And that's why it's sad to me because they're so much culture going on there. And it's really too bad. The cruise industrial has abandoned the place, I think.
JIMINEZ: And you talk to business leaders in Rosarito, they complain about Tijuana. They say the problem is in Tijuana. The problem is not down here. We're in good shape. But because of the image of Tijuana, people do not want to risk crossing through to Tijuana to get down to the other areas.
ORR: I had a friend who's a doctor, and used to work at some clinics in Tijuana. And she loved it. She lived there for a little while, she said if you know the city and the places to go, and the places to avoid, it's like any big city. In that respect, it's fine, yeah, of course they have had their problems. But she was never nervous about living there. She drives through there regularly. So again, I think it's a level of comfort, and what you know, and knowing how to handle yourself.
JIMINEZ: Tijuana is a big city. Even here in San Diego, if you want to go find trouble, there's plenty of places to find trouble. It's the same down there. You got to know where to go and who to go with.
CAVANAUGH: On the larger level, you're dealing with the problem of perception on the one hand, and yet hasn't there actually been a surge in drug violence in Tijuana lately? A surge in drug related deaths?
JIMINEZ: Yes. Compared to 2009, 2010, there has been a bit of a surge lately. But again, it's nowhere near the levels of violence we saw in 2008.
CAVANAUGH: Where is Tijuana when it comes to what we no longer can call the recession? The economic downturn. That of course has spilled over from the United States to Mexico, at least northern Mexico. What about industry in Tijuana?
JIMINEZ: Well, that's one of the things we're exploring this week on the fronteras desk, looking at the maquiladora industry, the manufacturing industry all across the border, and despite the violence and the recession, the maquiladora industry is growing all across the border. And there's predictions of continued growth throughout 2011 and moving forward into 2012. And in particular, my colleague, Ruxandra Guidi, did a story about the aerospace industry in Baja California. As we all be, aerospace was a very important industry here in California for many year, and as many other industries, they've moved south of the border and are establishing a significant manufacturing sector down there for the aerospace industry, which people are predicting will continue to grow.
ROLLAND: I just wanted to ask a question, where are we in terms of the importation of weapons from the United States. Do you know about that?
JIMINEZ: That's a whole other story. Yeah, our reporters in Arizona have been covering that story as ween, it's specifically 2005ed to the fast and furious scandal where people were allowing -- I'm sorry, ATF agents were allowing weapons to go down into Mexico, with the idea we'd track them and make bigger cases, and of course they've lost track of them. And they're gone. That is something they have been trying to address, but the truth is, you see it every day down there. They're not really getting a handle on it. And it seems every time that they try to do something, they get a resistance from the gun lobby. I believe the Department of Justice was just sent an edict saying if you sell two or more of these weapons, you have to report them to the Department of Justice so we can keep track of it. That immediately prompted a lawsuit from the gun lobby to stop this regulation from going in.
CAVANAUGH: I'm just wondering, you talked about the maquiladora, and the aerospace industry doing more business in Mexico, and I believe the maquiladoras are in Tijuana as well. Does that off set the revenue that they're losing from a lack of tourism?
JIMINEZ: No. Because you have very specific areas like Katie mentioned, in Rosarito, it's designed for tourism. That's what their main industry is. Upon they have all these beach front hotels, they have a lot of condominiums, which are timeshare rentals. So in places like Rosarito, they're being hurt very bad. In Tijuana, you have the famous Avenida Revolucion, where people can walk from San Ysidro over to the Avenida. And those businesses and shops are designed for tourists in mind. And the foot traffic down there has just gone down immensely since the drug war started. And also like Dave mentioned earlier, this is also the issue of crossing back into the United States. They've put in the restrictions of pas ports and a lot of people still don't have passports.
CAVANAUGH: We have to leave it there, but I want to thank you all so much. My guests, Jose Luis Jimenez, Katie Orr, and David Rolland, thank you so much for speaking with me.
JIMINEZ: Thank you Maureen.
ORR: Thank you.
ROLLAND: Thanks Maureen.