Juarez Police Chief Julian Leyzaloa
Juarez Police Chief Julian Leyzaola (Jesus Alcazar / El Paso Times)
JUAREZ - Police Chief Julian Leyzaola - a career law-enforcement officer especially picked to reduce the once uncontrolled violence that tarnished the image of this city - is prepared to leave the country once his dangerous assignment ends in October. "There is no safe place in Mexico for me," said Leyzaola, who has worked in law enforcement in the military for 37 years. "Mexico is prohibited for me." During a lengthy interview with the El Paso Times, Leyzaola, who came to Juárez from Tijuana, talked about his job in a city once considered one of the world's most dangerous cities. After 20 months on the job, he feels satisfied because the number of homicides is declining: from March 2011, when he arrived, to November of this year, the number of homicides has declined every month. And 2012 is projected to close with fewer than 800 homicides compared with 1,956 homicides in 2011. Leyzaola, 54, and a lieutenant colonel of the Mexican Army, is credited with a remarkable reduction in crimes such as extortion, carjacking and kidnappings. The reduction was accomplished with a strategic plan that included the cleansing of the police department - 800 officers have been dismissed in his term - and regaining the neighborhoods that once were under control of criminal groups such as the Juárez and the Sinaloa drug cartels.
Even though the city is making a slow turnaround, Leyzaola is not without critics. In the past 20 months, he has been the target of two assassination attempts and accused of human-rights abuses.
"They (human rights organizations) have never given me the right to respond," he said. He said his job is to fight crime and in doing so, he has become "the bad guy of the movie." Leyzaola's job will end Oct. 10 - something he is looking forward to. "You don't know how big the responsibility of sitting here is," he said. "I don't know how many people would like to be here, but when the time to give my resignation comes, it will be a very happy day for me."