At a campaign event earlier this month at a hilly neighborhood on Tijuana’s inland outskirts, people of all ages – and one stray dog – gathered around an SUV carrying Julián Leyzaola, the city’s former police chief who’s now running for mayor. He’s promising more safety and less corruption to a city that is yearning for both.
“If you don’t want to vote for me, don’t. But it’s important that you go out and vote,” Leyzaola told the small crowd.
Persuading people to vote is tough in Tijuana, where turnouts are usually low. The election is June 5. A victory for Leyzaola would be noteworthy for several reasons. Here are three things to know about him.
He’s infamously tough on crime.
If there’s one thing Leyzaola is known for, it’s the allegedly ruthless methods he used during tenures as police chief in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez to fight drug trafficking, crime and corruption.
A 2010 New Yorker profile probed claims of extrajudicial methods he used to quell corruption among police ranks. Police officers said they lost jobs, were locked up without trials and forced, under torture, to reveal the names of bad cops.
In 2011, Human Rights Watch issued a report that detailed Leyzaola’s alleged abuses. It included praise from the then-mayor of Ciudad Juarez, who said he was aware of the torture claims, but not hung up on them.