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Cablegate: Tijuana Bilateral Assessment

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DE RUEHME #0045/01 0122235
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0028
INFO ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
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RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
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243326
2010-01-12 22:35:00
10MEXICO45
Embassy Mexico
CONFIDENTIAL
10MEXICO3468|10TIJUANA1275
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DE RUEHME #0045/01 0122235
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 122235Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0028
INFO ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USNORTHCOM PETERSON AFB CO
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUCNFB/FBI WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC

TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SNAR ECON KCRM MX
C O N F I D E N T I A L MEXICO 000045

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/12
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM SNAR ECON KCRM MX
SUBJECT: Tijuana Bilateral Assessment
REF: TIJUANA 1275; MEXICO 3468

CLASSIFIED BY: Carlos Pascual, Ambassador, DOS, EXEC; REASON: 1.4(B),
(D)

1. (SBU) SUMMARY AND NEXT STEPS: One of the early fruits of the new
security policy coordination mechanism with Mexico has been an
agreement to focus our joint efforts on the border cities where the
most violence occurs and where the DTOs have carved out the
greatest operating space. As part of this effort an unprecedented
joint team representing all U.S. and Mexican law enforcement
agencies traveled to Tijuana and San Diego to conduct an assessment
of security and review opportunities for increased bilateral
cooperation. In its two-day visit the team came away with the
following key judgments:

-- Presidential focus: The joint assessment and increased
cooperation on the border is greatly helped by the express support
of President Calderon.

-- Mexican interagency coordination is improving both in Tijuana
and the DF, yet it is still too tied to personalities and
under-institutionalized.

-- Judicial prosecutions lagging: Frustration in Tijuana is rising
over the inability of the federal judiciary to produce convictions.

-- Social fabric strained: The recession, ineffective schools, and
the transient nature of Tijuana's population work in the DTOs'
favor. The GOM is not certain how to integrate Pillar IV (Build
Strong and Resilient Communities) into its broader drug strategy
and is still uncomfortable with NGOs.

-- Assistance requests modest: Mexican interlocutors identified
discrete areas where they believe the USG can help: some
technology, lots of intelligence sharing, limited equipment
(armored cars, ballistic vests), training (aimed at managing police
forces rather than how to do operations), and support to vetting
processes.

-- State and local forces are critical (and weak): State and local
law enforcement know their beat better than federal counterparts
and must be included in the equation if public security is to
improve. They are rich in manpower, institutionally weak, and
easily corrupted; they must be made more effective.

-- Task force model: The San Diego meeting drove home the utility
of the task force approach to investigations. The GOM will be
receptive to exchanges and visits on this key model -- and perhaps
also to detail more staff to task forces stateside.

-- Centrality of Control de Confianza: The importance of vetting
and internal controls was made clear by U.S. entities and GOM
officials accepted this premise.

-- Strategic communications: Both sides agreed that there is a
crying need to change the perception of the outside world with
regards to Tijuana, and to change the perception of the citizens of
Tijuana about law and order. Public diplomacy efforts have been
weak to date and must be a key part of any program.

2. (SBU) NEXT STEPS: We will wait to see what comes out of the
assessment of Ciudad Juarez/El Paso and then develop an interim
program to support the needs of the GOM in taking back the Tijuana
and Juarez DTO corridors. We will have a preliminary joint plan to
present to the Policy Coordination Group in late January and a more
focused plan to present to the High Level Group in February. NAS
and AID will conduct more detailed assessments by Training,
Judicial, Civil Society, IT, and Control de Confianza program
coordinators once the Juarez/El Paso assessment is completed, and
begin to look at specific programs which could be quickly
implemented. A critical first step will be to place a full-time
program coordinator in each city to manage the emerging programs.
END SUMMARY.

BILATERAL TEAM CONCEPT

----------------------

3. (SBU) High-level bilateral discussions over the past several
months have produced agreement to focus on targeted cooperation in
frontline Mexican border cities. We have agreed to pilot new
cooperative strategies initially in Tijuana/San Diego and Ciudad
Juarez/El Paso. Our joint objective is to demonstrably degrade drug
trafficking organizations (DTOs), decrease violence, recognize and
disseminate current best practices, and build models readily
applicable elsewhere in Mexico. The GOM has insisted that we
approach the assessments in a balanced fashion with issues on both
sides of the border acknowledged and factored in as we develop new
programs.

4. (SBU) A GOM-USG bilateral assessment team, chaired by the
Ambassador and CISEN Director General Valdes, traveled to Tijuana
December 3 and San Diego December 4. The Mexican delegation was
comprised of high-ranking representatives from CISEN, PGR, SEMAR,
SEDENA, SRE, Hacienda, and SSP. The U.S. delegation included USAID,
DHS, ICE, CBP, OPAD, DAO, ODC, FBI, State, NSC, and ConGen Tijuana.
In both locations we focused on law enforcement in the morning and
civil society in the afternoon. In setting the scene for the team,
the Ambassador asked for particular focus on sharing best practice,
relationships between the military and the three levels of
government, and seeking ways to better use real-time intelligence
to guide operations. Valdes emphasized co-responsibility in
confronting a transnational threat running from Colombia to the
U.S., noted the southbound flow of arms and cash, and underscored
the direct interest of President Calderon in the endeavor.

TIJUANA SECURITY IMPROVING BUT FRAGILE

--------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Baja California Norte Governor Jose Osuna Millan hosted
the bilateral team December 3 in Tijuana. SEDENA and SEMAR
regional commanders, state SSP, state PGR, Tijuana Public Security
Secretary Julian Leyzaola, and representatives from the Governor's
office participated in the discussions. The Governor's technical
secretary led with a briefing on the situation on the ground. Baja
California Norte beats the Mexican average on education, employment
and GDP per capita but as a migrant entry point and an industrial
city of working parents, its social fabric is strained. The
proximate cause of the spike in violence was Mexican success
against leaders of the Arellano Felix Organization (AFO), which
splintered and saw Sinaloan rivals move in, sparking a fight to
control border crossing routes. After a terrible 2008, violence in
Baja California Norte state subsided somewhat in 2009, with
Tijuana's share of Mexico's total killings dropping from 11% to 4%.
High impact crimes including kidnapping, car theft, and homicide
are down significantly. Yet the turnaround is not complete, and 40
police had died statewide through early November, close to the 49
officers lost in 2008. NOTE: Just after the bilateral team visit, a

truce between elements of the AFO disintegrated, unleashing a new
wave of killings (ref A). END NOTE.

6. (SBU) Governor Osuna said Mexican forces had launched an
offensive against the DTOs via the Baja California Coordination
Group (state and federal SSP, state preventative police (PEP),
CISEN, SEDENA, SEMAR, state and federal PGR). He said his main
effort was building up state government institutions. Control de
confianza measures coupled with firings of corrupt cops were
cleaning up the police corporations, with 83% of state and local
operational police forces now vetted. DTOs, he said, still
infiltrate the forces, but with a continuous review process, there
is less room for impunity and responsive performance over time is
gaining public confidence.

7. (SBU) A single academy, Osuna said, now trains state and local
police. 7,000 applicants applied in the last year but only 10%
gained entrance. If police reform efforts were beginning to bear
fruit, the governor said the next focus would need to be on
deficiencies in the judicial system ("I want to put a judge in
jail," he said, to demonstrate that judicial corruption was not
beyond the law.) The Governor thanked USAID for support to the
state's justice reforms and noted that he had signed cooperation
agreements with 14 U.S. state attorneys general under a
USAID-funded program to increase cooperation between Mexican and
U.S. states. Baja California Norte, he said, will begin the
transition from inquisitorial to accusatory trials in 2010 in the
Mexicali judicial district. Other districts will follow after the
appropriate training.

8. (SBU) Further briefings were offered by the State Security
Director, Municipal Security Chief Leyzaola, and SEDENA General
Alfonso Duarte who oversees overall interagency coordination
between the military and federal, state, and local forces. The GOM
shifted a planned meeting away from the Unidad de Inteligencia
Tactica Operativa (UNITO), a fusion center concept the GOM is
implementing in multiple regions, either because the center is not
yet up and running or for simple lack of space. There did not seem
to be a central location where coordination takes place but rather
a virtual system that was largely personality driven.

REQUIREMENTS AND REQUESTS

-------------------------

9. (SBU) State-level SSP presented proposals to improve the
performance of Mexican forces: better coordination of operations
and information-sharing between Mexican agencies and cross-border,
a more robust security force presence and better equipment for all
forces, more drug treatment centers on both sides of the border,
advance warning of repatriation to Mexico of prisoners freed from
U.S. prisons, and U.S. notification of border incidents to the
Mexican C4 (Command, Control, Communications, and Coordination)
system in time for the Mexicans to react. The key ask from
Municipal Dirctor Leyzaola was for equipment (primarily vests and
armored cars), and training in professionalism and leadership.

10. (SBU) The Governor made limited appeals for USG assistance. He
noted he had asked California Governor Schwarzenegger in an October
meeting to share biometric data of prisoners being released and
repatriated to Mexico, and for coordination at the point of
repatriation on the border. He suggested a road along the southern
side of the border fence to facilitate patrols and positive control
of the borderline. He spoke positively of a "culture of legality"
in the U.S. and noted that the drug fight is not just about
confronting the cartels but must include programs to prevent
addiction in schools. Finally, he asked for help turning around

Mexico and Tijuana's perception problem, stating that Brazil is
more violent than Mexico, Detroit is more violent than Tijuana, and
California plays more narcocorridos than Mexican radio stations. He
asserted that USG travel alerts that warn U.S. citizens not to
visit Baja California severely damage tourism and the economy. A
weak economy creates a fertile recruiting ground for the cartels.
He asked for our help in turning around the image of Tijuana as a
violent and unapproachable place.

C-4 CENTER A GLORIFIED CALL CENTER

----------------------------------

11. (SBU) The team visited Tijuana's C-4 center later in the day.
The C-4 is primarily a call center for emergency calls and does not
have a strong analytical component. It handles city 911 calls
(5,200 per day), and includes federal police and military liaison
officers with links to the SSP's countrywide Plataforma Mexico data
base. A filtering overlay has reduced hoax calls from 50% to 30% of
total volume and a center in Mexicali fields state-wide anonymous
tip (denuncia) calls. The 911 and denuncia numbers both receive
calls regularly from U.S.-based callers, which as of mid-2009 can
be made from the U.S. toll-free. An SMS/text message-based add-on
interface is planned for 2010.

SAN DIEGO LAW ENFORCEMENT SESSION

---------------------------------

12. (SBU) Acting U.S. Attorney Kevin Kelly hosted the December 4
meeting in San Diego, with participation by San Diego-based ICE,
FBI, CBP/Border Patrol, DEA, ATF, San Diego Police Department
(SDPD), Chula Vista Police Department, San Diego Sheriff's
Department, Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD), Joint Task
Force-North, and the Mexican Consulate. The meeting moved
thematically from U.S. federal interagency coordination to state
and local law enforcement cross-border coordination, intelligence
architecture and cross-border information sharing, cross border
investigations, and ICE's Border Enforcement Security Task Force
(BEST). DG Valdes remarked he had never seen such a profusion of
USG partners for Mexican efforts, nor a cross-border law
enforcement gathering on this scale.

U.S. Federal Interagency Coordination

13. (SBU) Kelly began with an outline of the Southern California
region he represents: 141 miles of border, 6 Ports of Entry with
many interstate transportation links, 7% of the U.S.-Mexico border
but fully 60% of the border population. Drug caseloads Kelly said,
are up 60% in fiscal year 2009 and the district sees more drug
cases than California's three other districts combined. A
well-situated crossroads for trade, the San Diego area is also
suffering cartel creep, as pressure in Mexico pushes DTO leaders
and operations north across the border. In response, agencies in
the area have created numerous task forces to facilitate the
collection, analysis, and dissemination of information across
jurisdictions, agencies, and borders.

14. (SBU) Agencies also assign officers as border liaisons to work
with Mexican counterparts. CBP briefed on a prime example of a
tunnel discovered using tunnel detection equipment made available
by NORTHCOM's Joint Task Force-North to identify a seismic anomaly
one kilometer west of the Otay Mesa port of entry. CBP's sharing of
this information with Mexican counterparts led to a USG and GOM
operation to take down the tunnel simultaneously at both ends

before the smugglers could finish construction.

State and Local Law Enforcement Cross-Border Coordination

15. (SBU) SDPD briefed on programs to train local police in
Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada using a train-the-trainer approach.
This kind of training on culture of lawfulness, community policing,
and intel-led operations creates channels for information-sharing
between SDPD and Mexican counterpart forces. SDPD reps also attend
the funerals of slain Tijuana police to build trust and show
support for their colleagues. The Los Angeles Police Department
(LAPD) runs one of the largest international police training sites
in the U.S. In addition to the skills imparted, these programs too
are a huge boost to trust and inter-operability.

Intelligence Architecture and Cross-Border Intel Sharing

16. (C) OPAD stressed the critical role of vetting to give agencies
the confidence to share information. Participants agreed that often
cross-border liaison is built around a relationship between
counterparts and is not institutionalized in the positions
themselves. DEA stressed the burden assumed by Mexican officials
receiving information from the USG, saying that they have lost
Mexican colleagues because of information they shared. GOM
interlocutors throughout the assessment stressed the need for
greater intel sharing to guide operations south of the border. U.S.
participants agreed this is key, but added a note of caution that
intelligence alone will not turn things around. Intelligence is an
input -- it does not direct operations and it does not reform
institutions.

Cross-Border Investigations

17. (SBU) The FBI field office described its approach to
cross-border violence cases (primarily kidnappings). Critical
elements include border liaison officers, proactive
information-sharing, and a multi-agency task force focused tightly
on kidnappings and extortion (and not straying into gang/DTO
territory). When asked whether drug and other violence could really
be disaggregated, the FBI rep agreed that complete separation of
related crimes was not possible, but said steps such as co-locating
task forces help integrate the law enforcement community while
maintaining the discrete focus of individual task forces. The
briefer offered a recent example where a dual-national was
kidnapped on the Mexican side. Her family notified the FBI, which
collected information from an informant who knew of a kidnapping
crew operating in Mexico. FBI disseminated the lead to Mexican
counterparts through its border liaison and Mexican police
apprehended the crew and freed the hostage.

18. (SBU) Border Enforcement Security Task Force: The Mexican
delegation specifically requested a briefing on ICE's Border
Enforcement Security Task Force (BEST). BEST is the only task force
in San Diego with an embedded Mexican official, a promising
approach also in use at EPIC.

Closing Comments

19. (C) The Ambassador closed by drawing out a few key lessons. To
address these law enforcement challenges requires multiple agencies
with multiple talents. Task forces, as cross-cutting entities,

bridge jurisdictions and build trust. Intelligence and information
collection function on several levels. In a rough cut, he laid out
a continuum: community tips and information drawn from beat cops;
tactical information derived from, for example, humint and judicial
wiretaps; information on high value targets; and both intelligence
and analysis on the operations of DTOs. Establishing such a
framework on intelligence could also inform the architecture for
sharing intelligence. Different aspects of intelligence sharing
would require different protocols for sharing, disseminating and
protecting information. He underscored that the issues covered in
the day's discussion would only bear fruit when brought back to
specific cases. The imperative to solve a case drives USG and the
GOM to cooperate across the border and successful case establishes
goodwill, durable communications channels, and an example for use
in subsequent actions.

CIVIL SOCIETY SESSIONS OPEN A DOOR

----------------------------------

20. (SBU) The team met with academics and non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) in separate meetings at the Autonomous
University of Baja California (UABC) and the University of
California-San Diego (UCSD). In Tijuana, the GOM organizers did not
seem to understand the focus of Pillar IV. They brought in three
academics working on immigration issues, who stressed that
deportees are cannon fodder for the cartels and described GOM
support to deportees. They said that unemployment in the state has
tripled from two percent to seven percent in the economic downturn
and is providing a boon to DTO recruiters, but did not have
suggestions on how to turn the situation around.

21. (SBU) Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow presided
at the UCSD session, which was a much more varied and comprehensive
exchange with NGO, business, and academic leaders. California NGOs
and non-profits described their activities south of the border and
speakers urged the GOM to strengthen NGOs rather than mistrust
them. DG Valdes remarked that in the late 1990s, he was tasked with
analyzing the "threat" from NGOs and came away with a strong
appreciation for their ability to strengthen civil society. The
Chamber of Commerce explained their efforts for several years have
been on the Tijuana-San Diego metro area as one economic block.
Chamber members include business people from both sides of the
border, and their investment/trade promotion trips also represent
both cities.

22. (SBU) COMMENT: This part of our evolving strategy has been the
most uncomfortable for the GOM. Civil society organizations are
often vocal in their criticism of the federal government, including
the security strategy. What the GOM saw in San Diego was a strong
and uniform support for Mexico. Academics, business, city and civil
society leaders all echoed their interest in expanding cooperation
in all sectors to the benefit of both sides. The message was "do
not fear us, but let us be part of the solution to our common
problems." END COMMENT.

PASCUAL
PASCUAL

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