Saturday, October 9, 2010

Outgoing Mayor Reyes Ferriz: Governor Baeza Blocked Efforts to Control Violence in Juarez for Political Reasons

In a remarkable interview to Diario (click here), PRIista outgoing Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz, who leaves office tomorrow, describes how political infighting between the governor's office and the municipality of Juarez caused a break between the state government and Juarez, and an "abandonment" of the state government's efforts to contain the escalation of violence in Juarez.

When the wave of kidnappings and extortion began in the Spring of 2008, he asserts, governor Jose Reyes Baeza (no relation), also a Priista, was more interested in pointing out that it was the federal government (controlled by the PAN party) that was failing, than he was in cooperating with the national and local governments to solve the problem. "At that point I began working with the federal government, especially with the secretariat of Governance (PGR), and we began to coordinate our efforts. The state then began to see the intervention of the federal government in the violence of Juarez as a (Panista) political intervention in Cd. Juarez (controlled by the PRI)," the mayor said. "The state government did not want us to work closely with the federal government."

Another point of friction was the relationship between the mayor's office and the state prosecutor, Patricia Gonzalez. The state prosecutor's office simply wasn't doing its job. "When I began to pressure them privately to make it work, the state government thought I was trying to make them look bad, For me it would have been politically convenient to have said in public that the state was doing nothing, but I was hoping we could get all three levels of government to work together. Things got so bad I made an agreement with the federal prosecutor's office so that they would hold persons accused of crimes, rather than the state government, because not only was not doing its job in detaining suspects, but when it did so, it let them go." It became clear the state government would not cooperate even to the extent of providing the resources it had promised.

Basically state government had refused to exercise its respo0nsibility to fight insecurity in Cd. Juarez: as an example, the mayor points to the day he informed the public that the maintenance of federal forces in Juarez would cost the municipal government $420 million pesos; "immediately I got a message from the governor saying "don't even think you can count on state government for that purpose." The governor also refused to increase the number of agents in the prosecutor's office in Juarez where, the mayor said, there are less than half the number that there are in Chihuahua (city). "The truth is, the government not only did not cooperate, but in various instances it openly blocked efforts by the federal government to invest in security. "We would convince the federal government to give us resources bu the state government would say no."

The break between the state government and Juarez became an open one when the governor began promoting the candidacy of his former secretary, Oscar Villalobos, for governor (in the elections of 2010) and the mayor supported Cesar Duarte, who went on to become governor. Things came to a head in 2010 when the governor wanted to impose Victor Valencia as mayor, one of Reyes Ferriz's worst enemies. "I had reason to think Victor Valencia (who was named the governor's representative in Juarez six months after Reyes Ferriz became mayor) was not the ideal candidate for Juarez," he said, indicating only that "the people of Juarez know why" I have no confidence in him."

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