Saturday, January 16, 2010

Army Loses Control Over Joint Operation Chihuahua: Federal Police Take Over, Change Its Name: Would a Rose By Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

Norte reports today that Joint Operation Chihuahua will now be named "Coordinated Operation Chihuahua," (Operación Coordinada Chihuahua) and will no longer be in the hands of Mexican Army General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, Commander of the Fifth Military Zone. The Operation will now be the responsibility of the incoming delegate to Chihuahua for the Federal Preventive Police, Vidal Díaz Leal Ochoa, who has just been named to this position. He is currently serving as the state delegate for the PFP in Guanajuato. The federal "delegate" is equivalent of the role the U.S. Attorney in the United States.

The Army will stay in Juarez (at least for the time being), continuing to supplement the municipal police in day-to-day operations. But the responsibility for kidnappings, extortion, drug-related homicides, and drug trafficking will be transferred immediately from the Army to the PFP. This represents a major restructuring of responsibilities, and reflects an acknowledgment by the federal government that Joint Operation Chihuahua, headed by the Army, is considered by most observers, including the vast majority of citizens, to have been a failure.

The article pointed out that Mr. Vidal was fired in May 2008 along with other PFP officials when a group of armed men entered Cananea (a small community in Sonora, on the border with Arizona) undetected and proceeded to commit a host of kidnappings and executions. Vidal was head of the PFP's Pursuit Operations at the time.

Facundo Rosas Rosas, head of the national Federal Public Security Secretariat, which houses the PFP, later brought Mr. Vidal back into the PFP as head of planning for the organization, and later named him as the delegate to Guanajuato before tasking him with the Chihuahua assignment. With the increased responsibilities now placed under the PFP in Chihuahua, Mr. Vidal becomes one of the key law enforcement officers in Mexico.

In announcing these changes at a press conference last night, Facundo Rosas indicated that an additional 2000 PFP agents will be assigned to Cd. Juarez, Villa Ahumada, and Casas Grandes. There are currently about 2500 PFP agents in Chihuahua. Moreover, about 100 intelligence specialists will begin to investigate cases of kidnapping and extortion.

Rosas also indicated that Vidal will now take over the Center for Emergencies and Immediate Response, which coordinates exchanges of information with the U.S. government, the state of Chihuahua, and the Municipality of Juarez, according to the Norte article.

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