Mar 21, 2013

Deportation, Drugs and Delinquency in Tijuana

FNS NEWS. Are U.S. and Mexican deportation and reintegration policies fomenting delinquency in Tijuana? According to a prominent academic researcher and immigrant rights activist, the answer is yes. Victor Clark Alfaro, director of Tijuana’s Binational Center for Human Rights, told the local press that the deportation of gang-affiliated individuals who are left on their own in the Mexican border city with no resources or legitimate employment options is exacerbating a serious problem of drug abuse and delinquency.

Of an average of 200 deportees who arrive daily to Tijuana, Clark Alfaro estimated that at least 30 percent of them have ties with southern California gangs including Mara Salvatrucha, M-18, M-13, Florence, and the Mexican Mafia. After their arrival in Tijuana, the deportees don’t find job opportunities and confront discrimination from the local society because of their dress, style and tattoos, Clark Alfaro contended.

The border anthropologist said the lack of papers on the U.S. side of the border is likewise a problem on the Mexican side, where it is difficult to obtain the birth certificates and federal voter cards which are routinely used for identification in Mexico. Undocumented individuals are then harassed and detained by Tijuana municipal police officers, Clark Alfaro asserted.

He said the desperate situation of the deportees coupled with the cross-border criminal backgrounds of many make them ideal recruits for organized crime. Employed as look-outs, meth cooks, street dealers and hit men, deportees wind up constituting  the lower base of the pyramid of organized crime in Tijuana, Clark Alfaro added.

While the high-profile violence between warring drug gangs that shattered Tijuana a few years back has largely receded into the background, local drug consumption and the violence associated with it have not gone away.  Regularly, the press reports on the detentions of street dealers, small-scale drug confiscations and killings said to be connected to the lower rung of the underworld.

This week, for example, the Baja California attorney general’s office told the media it was investigating four homicides committed in recent days. In one case, two men were found beaten and strangled in a home.  In another case, Roberto Alejandro Cortes Chorta, 25, was arrested and accused of killing his friend, 26-year-old Veronica Palacios Espinoza, and then stuffing her body in a suitcase with the aid of his mother, after the young couple consumed drugs and argued.

In a third instance,  21-year-old Jessica Michele Munoz was found strangled inside a Ford Explorer with a dose of crystal meth on a breast.  Reportedly, Munoz was earlier linked to small-time drug dealing. On Wednesday, March 20,  22-year-old Margarita Martinez Michel became the third woman murdered in Tijuana in a week when she was shot to death in front of her home, in a crime also linked to street dealing.

On March 19, Tijuana municipal Baja California state police authorities reported detaining 18 street dealers and confiscating small amounts of meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. Separately, two other men were arrested for allegedly preparing a car with California license plates with a marijuana shipment.

In an analysis published last year, Clark Alfaro, who teaches at San Diego State University, wrote that the presumed end of the Tijuana drug war and the decline in murder statistics, which registered more than 2,300 homicides during the peak years of violence between 2008 and 2010 according to the scholar-activist, has not ended insecurity but largely confined it to the working-class neighborhoods of the city and among the lower classes. A similar pattern is currently playing out in Ciudad Juarez, Acapulco and other places.

Clark Alfaro described two Tijuanas: “the modern city. ” a place where the financial and political elite reside, and the rest of the city where poor zones punctuated with islands of walled-off subdivisions proliferate.

As order has been restored for the upper echelons of society, social disintegration has taken hold on the lower end, characterized by rising drug addiction, especially to meth, and the briskness of an illicit market that easily withstands police and military seizures, according to Clark Alfaro. In this schema, the business of murder is systematic but tucked away from the larger society and done in a non-scandalous way.

Wrote the border analyst:

“The murdered, on average one a day, now are not people murdered in abhorrent ways: decapitated, dismembered or incinerated. Rather, they are shot to death…the daily murder victims are now irrelevant persons in the structure of delinquency, since according to the authorities, 80 percent of them were people linked to the sale of drugs on the streets of the other Tijuana, not the modern part of the city,”.

In his more recent comments to the Tijuana press, Clark Alfaro said not enough attention was being paid to the issue of local drug dealing/consumption. He urged giving alternatives to deportees but feared public policy was headed in the wrong direction. “All indications are that a police solution is desired for a problem that requires a humanitarian one,” Clark Alfaro contended.

Sources: March 19, 20 and 21, 2013.  Articles by Luis Gerardo Andrade and editorial staff.  El Sol de Tijuana, March 18, 20 and 21, 2013. Articles by Juan Guizar and Manuel Cordero. Proceso, August 22, 2012. Article by Victor Clark Alfaro.

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