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Prosecutor Replaced After Tijuana Violence

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The state prosecutor of Baja California was hastily replaced Wednesday amid blistering criticism for the removal of state police guarding a crusading Tijuana journalist just weeks before the journalist was wounded in a botched assassination attempt by the Tijuana drug cartel.

The resignation of Jose Luis Anaya Bautista came less than a week after gunmen of the Tijuana drug cartel opened fire on Jesus Blancornelas on his way to work last Thursday, seriously wounding him and slaying his bodyguard.

In the cross-fire, the gunmen also accidentally shot one of their own, a notorious alleged cartel triggerman of the Tijuana drug cartel who U.S. authorities say was involved in the slaying of a Mexican archbishop and also performed “hits” as a member of the California prison-based Mexican Mafia.

The staff of Blancornelas’ news weekly, Zeta, immediately blamed Baja Gov. Hector Teran Teran and Anaya, saying that three weeks before the attack, authorities had removed two state judicial police bodyguards who had been guarding Blancornelas for seven months.

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Anaya, who as Baja prosecutor oversaw the state judicial police, said the police bodyguards were removed by mutual consent after Blancornelas contracted private security guards. Anaya said state authorities “are under no obligation to provide private security to citizens.”

On Wednesday, Teran said, “After deep consideration . . . we concluded it was time for a change.”

In announcing the new state prosecutor, Marco Antonio De la Fuente Villareal, Teran underlined his continued confidence in Anaya, saying he had invited him to stay on as a special advisor.

“The labor of Jose Luis Anaya enjoys my full recognition,” Teran said.

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It was not the first time that the removal of official bodyguards was followed by an assassination attempt in violence-plagued Tijuana. In January, gunmen killed a respected young prosecutor, Hodin Gutierrez Rico, just a few months after his police bodyguards were dismissed. His father continues to demand an explanation from Anaya.

Anaya has been embroiled in controversy and there have been calls for his resignation since the Gutierrez assassination--particularly after his revelation that someone, whom he had neither arrested nor investigated, had warned him beforehand of the pending killing.

He was criticized by the business community for the lack of progress against the kidnappers of a Japanese businessmen last year, who was released for a hefty ransom of $2 million.

“The Blancornelas attack was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Victor Clark, a respected independent human rights activist. “His conduct was crippling the image of the governor and of his political party. There are too many unsolved crimes. Too many rumors of links between the police and the criminals.”

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As reported in The Times, Anaya was named earlier this year as a drug cartel ally in a startling affidavit by a young cartel member that was filed in U.S. courts in January in support of attempts to extradite two alleged gunmen to Mexico on charges of murder.

Anaya has denied the allegations.

The former cartel member said that Anaya “as well as his subordinates, as well as 100% of the agents of the judicial police for the state, offer protection to [the] Arellano Felix brothers and their gunmen so they perpetrate the assassinations that they order.”

The affidavit said Baldomero Juvera, who until a few weeks ago was homicide chief of the Tijuana state judicial police, protected cartel hit men from investigation and told them of witnesses who came forward to testify against them.

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Juvera, who also has denied the allegations, has left the force.

The state prosecutor of a previous administration, Juan Francisco Franco Rios, was replaced three years ago amid scandals in which drug traffickers were found to possess state police IDs and state police helped a drug lord shoot his way out of police custody.

The attack against Blancornelas brought brewing frustrations over drug cartel violence to an embarrassing new height.

The award-winning Blancornelas had named one of the gunmen in a Zeta issue a week before the attack. He is on a respirator in intensive care, in critical but stable condition, in a Tijuana hospital.

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Anaya’s resignation was announced as Mexican federal authorities rifled 31 homes and 19 other buildings in the Baja border cities of Tijuana, Ensenada, Tecate and Mexicali in search of cartel members.

The list of the residences, released by the Mexico City attorney general’s Tijuana district office, read like a drug cartel map to the stars’ homes. To many, it begged a question: Why weren’t the homes--some in prominent neighborhoods or busy Tijuana streets near past assassination sites--searched before?

“There is a labyrinth of complicity,” Clark said. “In this city, everyone knows who is who and where they live. Nothing is hidden, but there are many interests between the criminals and their arrest. It is now, with U.S. pressure, that officials feel pressured to show progress.”


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