Across Mexico, the human toll of the drug wars over the past few years is thought to be nearing 30,000. In Tijuana alone, almost 500 people were killed in just the last three months of 2008, many of them strung up in public as a warning to others.
The killings haven’t stopped. But their numbers have dropped and, as journalist William Finnegan writes in this week’s New Yorker magazine, “the great Tijuana drug war” seems to be over. Much of the credit may go to police Chief Julián Leyzaola Pérez, a retired Army officer who wields so much machismo that he once punched the corpse of a dead drug trafficker in the face.
But, as Finnegan writes, Leyzaola’s own hands may not be clean.
I interviewed Finnegan by phone about Tijuana’s violence, allegations of torture in the police force and the threat looming over the city’s future.