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Border & Immigration

Mexico's president visits Tijuana one week after violence

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO, visited Tijuana on Friday and didn't miss his regular morning news conference. His speech was filled with compliments, support and love for the governor of Baja California, Marina del Pilar, and the people of the state. "Nos da mucho gusto de estar en Tijuana," " he said. "We are very happy to be in Tijuana."

But it didn’t take long for him to talk about the wave of crime throughout Baja California that caused fear and panic last weekend.

While his trip was prescheduled, AMLO said he came to tell del Pilar that she’s not alone, and called the events regrettable. He said they will continue to support the people of the state and said they are making progress and and that crime is trending down.

Del Pilar also addressed the violence, saying that a week ago "cowards" tried to scare residents but were no match for "the powerful arm of the uniformed forces and people who stood united."

She also said political opponents took advantage of the chaos by spreading fake news to sow fear and uncertainty.

AMLO said the weekend of chaos was propaganda by both the cartels and his political opponents. He said viral social media memes of him eating tamales and other Mexican foods while Mexico burned showed the propaganda was far-reaching. He also took swipes at his predecessors by showing slides comparing murder rates during their terms to his.

AMLO's message was a disappointment to veteran journalist Vicente Calderon, the producer and editor of Tijuanapress.com. Calderon was born and raised in the border city and has covered it for over three decades. Calderon said this was a missed opportunity for the president to give a new message to a community that is used to crime but felt something different last weekend.

"I was disappointed because he basically said the same things that he has been saying from the beginning about these incidents, that these were public displays of power in an effort to make his administration look bad, and I think it's way more than that," Calderon told KPBS.

Calderon worries that the president is sticking to what many see as a failed policy towards organized crime known as "abrazos, no balazos," which means "hugs, not bullets."

Calderon said: "You don’t see many people confident  [that] the 'hugs, not bullets' policy is working against organized crime."

Congressman Juan Vargas (D, CA-51) represents a district that hugs the border. He said he was not confident in the policy either and that, after the chaos of last weekend, it's clear that it's time to take a tough stance. "It’s a horrible tragedy, and I have to say I put a lot of the blame right at the feet of president AMLO," Vargas said. "He has that slogan, 'abrazos, no balazos,' when it comes to talking about narco-traffickers and the cartels," Vargas added. "But the cartels are killing everybody, and now they're taking over cities."

"That's not going to work," Vargas said, "and it's the wrong direction."

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