THE WATCH STAFF
Mexico’s Army is launching an offensive against organized crime to combat a recent wave of violence.
The first destination: Tijuana, the border city where the Army sent a Special Forces task force April 26, 2022, to target a specific list of criminals suspected of being behind the violence that claimed more than 120 lives before the end of April, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper.
Over the past three years, Tijuana has averaged more than 2,000 homicides per year, and robberies and assaults are also up, according to statistics from the Baja California Attorney General, according to a January 21 report by the online news site BorderReport.com.
Baja California residents’ perception of insecurity, as reflected in the INEGI National Urban Public Security Survey, rose in the first quarter of 2022, the Union-Tribune reported. In Tijuana, it increased in the survey’s index from 76.4% feeling unsafe in December 2021 to 81.4% in March 2022, exceeding Mexico’s national average by more than 15 points, the newspaper said.
In announcing the troop deployment, the Army for the first time released a list of Mexico’s most-wanted criminals to get public help to locate them, the newspaper said April 26. One of the targets is David López Jiménez, aka “Cabo 20,” who is suspected of ordering the slaying of Tijuana photojournalist Margarito Martínez Esquivel, who was killed January 17. Six days after Esquivel’s death, another reporter, Lourdes Maldonado, was killed, according to the Union-Tribune. There have been arrests in connection to both deaths.
Gen. Francisco Javier Hernández Almanza, coordinator for the National Guard in Baja California, the state that includes Tijuana, said Special Forces troops joined the large contingent of Soldiers already deployed in the area.
“Under instructions of the president, we received 200 members of the Special Forces as a way to try and reduce violent events, now we have about 3,700 Soldiers in place,” Hernández Almanza said, according a BorderReport.com.
(Pictured: A Mexican Special Forces sniper charges to a firing point during the Fuerzas Commando international military competition in 2016.)
Members of local and state authorities, the Attorney General’s office, the National Guard and the secretary of National Defense’s office will also be a part of the Tijuana task force, said Hernández Almanza, according to the Union-Tribune.
Tijuana, which is about 20 miles south of San Diego, California, has long been a battleground for cartels looking to dominate the smuggling of illegal drugs into North America, according to the Union-Tribune.
“The conflict over control of production, distribution and sales of drugs led by organized delinquents within the state of Baja California has generated a large number of homicides,” said Hernández Almanza, according to the April 28 BorderReport.com.
Hernández Almanza said the troops will be deployed in high-crime neighborhoods and will be directed by investigators to suspects’ possible locations.
Criminal cartels sometimes can outgun Mexican police. Hernández Almanza said the troops will also support Tijuana police, if necessary.
Hernández Almanza said the task force is committed to respecting citizens’ human rights, according to the Union-Tribune.
“As Special Forces,” he said, “they have many specialties in combat.”
IMAGE CREDIT: STAFF SGT. CHAD MENEGAY/U.S. ARMY