Last Sunday, Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval ordered state police officers to assume control of public security in the Guadalajara suburb of Tlaquepaque after concerns that criminal organizations have infiltrated and corrupted the municipal force.
In an operation carried out at 7:30 a.m., state cops disarmed 735 municipal officers and drove them away to the barracks of the nearby police academy.
The switch over was carried out smoothly with the help of the Mexican armed forces. Sandoval said “scrupulous care” was taken not to infringe human rights.
The governor said the municipal officers will be evaluated and undergo a training course. Those that are deemed “clean” will be reintegrated back to their regular duties after a period of 30 days, he confirmed.
Although the center of Tlaquepaque is an upmarket tourist zone recognized for its arts and crafts, the populous municipality has many economically challenged zones within its limits. In a press briefing, Gonzalo Sanchez, the Jalisco government communications director, noted that Tlaquepaque is a key strategic zone for drug traffickers and dealers and that Sunday’s operation would help “diminish” lawlessness in other parts of the metropolitan area.
As of Monday, members of the female state police unit known as “Las Minervas” were seen patrolling the tourist center of Tlaquepaque and talking with traders and visitors. State patrol vehicles were also visible in other parts of the sprawling city suburb, although neighbors of some zones commented on the “minimal” police presence.
When they returned to work Monday, many members of opposition political parties cried foul, saying the decision to relieve the Tlaquepaque officers of their duties is an electoral strategy, although the governor stressed the decision was taken solely “in the interests” of the state.
“If we are worried about politics in the lead up to the (July 1) election, then we won’t do anything and just cross our arms until it’s over.” That was the sarcastic tone the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor used at an emergency meeting with metro-area mayors held Monday afternoon at the state government palace.
At the meeting, Tlaquepaque Mayor Maria Elena Limon of the opposition Citizens Movement (MC) criticized the manner in which the operation was carried out without any prior notification, and vowed to support the municipal police officers who, according to Limon, have nothing to hide.
Immediately following Sunday’s operation, Limon had called for the state government to provide her with proof of collusion between municipal officers and criminal gangs within three days or she could only presume that the episode had “political motives.”
Gonzalo criticized Limon for her posture and said she would be better off cooperating with the state government, which was acting decisively on intelligence received.
Despite Sandoval’s insistence that the situation is not “politicized,” several PRI candidates for metro-area mayorships tweeted messages praising the governor’s “bold” decision to act.
Enrique Alfaro, MC’s candidate for governor, who is leading the opinion polls over his PRI rival, responded in a tweet that Sandoval has “decided to convert our most important topic (public security) into an electoral matter. That’s why things are like they are.”
MC Coordinator Salvador Caro Cabrera, a former Guadalajara police chief, said the governor was acting on “suspicions” of illegal activity within a police force without any regard for “due process” and in violation of the Mexican Constitution. He also questioned why Sandoval waited five years until just before a pivotal election to take such action.
A sharp spike in the number of killings in Guadalajara this year has been put down to internecine wars between criminal groups. Meanwhile, Jalisco has garnered unwanted international attention after municipal police officers in Tecalitlan were charged with handing over three Italians to a criminal organization. The Italians had allegedly encroached on the turf of a local gang. Their whereabouts is still unknown.
Federal Interior (Gobernacion) Secretary Alfonso Navarrete Prida said Sunday’s operation in Tlaquepaque is connected to “Operativo Escudo Titán,” a federal initiative started earlier this year in cities and towns across the nation aimed at reducing the high number of homicides reported in 2017.
Without elaborating, Sandoval said this is not the first time Jalisco state police have taken control of a municipality and suggested it “won’t be the last.”