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Wikileaks Reveals U.S. Diplomats’ Concerns About Drug War In Tijuana

Cables released by Wikileaks earlier this week reveal U.S. diplomats' concerns about Tijuana's former police chief and the fight against organized crime.

One cable, from July 2009, says diplomats were informed that then-chief, Julian Leyzaola, had made a deal with drug-cartel operatives. The cable says Leyzaola, had made a "look-the-other-way agreement" with an Arellano Felix drug-cartel member. That was Tijuana's dominant cartel. The cable says that agreement is why Leyzaola went after the Arellano Felix cartel's rivals with such enthusiasm.

Roberto Quijano is a Tijuana lawyer. He's been an ardent Leyzaola supporter. He continues to be, despite the cable. "Sometimes, U.S. representations abroad, they have very bad information. The most clear example is the invasion to Iraq where they say there were mass-destruction weapons and there were no weapons of mass destruction," said Quijano.

Consular officials in Tijuana were not available to respond.

U.S. analysts said there's little way to know what's true. David Shirk, who directs the University of San Diego's Transborder Institute, said the cables' value is that they raise questions about Tijuana's success in controlling drug violence.

"The story has been kind of a rosy picture of effective law enforcement, when in fact it may have been some kind of back-room deal, or some other factors," says Shirk.

The other cable from October 2009, asks whether Baja California law enforcement's impressive drug seizures and arrest numbers are true.

It says, regardless, there weren't prosecutions and, without them, permanent inroads against drug cartels will remain elusive. The cable also cautions that Tijuana's decline in violence needs to be viewed in context. "An improvement over 2008 isn't saying much," reads the cable.

In 2008, there were 844 homicides in Tijuana, as rival factions of the Arellano Felix cartel battled for control of the city's local drug market and strategic border crossings. Violence has subsided during the last two years, and has largely been confined to the city's outskirts. More than 800 murders were logged in 2010.

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