Tijuana has a new mayor, same as the old mayor, as Arturo González Cruz retakes office
The first female mayor of Tijuana served for less than a month before her previous boss returned Thursday, demanding his old job back.
Arturo González Cruz, the elected mayor of Tijuana, stepped away from office in mid-October, after appointing his education secretary, Karla Ruiz MacFarland, to serve in his absence. Then, in a turn of events that was bizarre even by Baja California standards, González Cruz announced Thursday he plans to temporarily resume his mayoral duties — at least for the next few weeks.
The 66-year-old real estate executive said he plans to continue serving in the Tijuana mayor’s office while he awaits a decision from his political party about whether it will back his bid for a higher political office.
“I will continue to await the call that my party makes. I am going to exercise my political rights,” said González Cruz, referring to his right to return to his previous position.
“Today, more than ever, I am determined that Baja California needs urgent change,” he added.
While it is not uncommon for local elected officials in Mexico to step away from their public office while campaigning for a different elected position, they don’t often return within three weeks of stepping down.
In April 2019, former Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum Buenrostro stepped down for several months to work on his reelection campaign, which he lost. He returned to office in June of that year, after losing to González Cruz.
In mid-October, González Cruz denied that he was stepping away to run for office. On Thursday, his tone had changed.
Asked at a news conference Thursday whether he wanted to be governor of Baja California, González Cruz replied that “anyone who loves his state would like to participate in that function” and that it would be a great honor to run for that position. He said that his return to the municipal government position was not because he was told he will not be the gubernatorial candidate for his Morena political party.
“On the contrary, we are redoubling efforts to see how we are going to participate towards 2021,” he said.
‘There’s too much on the line not to vote,’ says one U.S. citizen, who lives in Tijuana.
González Cruz, who belongs to the same Morena political party as the governor of Baja California and the president of Mexico, “took license” or stepped down from his position as mayor Oct. 14, after Gov. Jaime Bonilla accused him of being involved in the assassination of a local blogger.
González Cruz vehemently denied those accusations and said he planned to take legal action to stop Bonilla from making them. Bonilla said the victim’s family believed González Cruz was responsible, but state law enforcement authorities said there was not enough evidence to even question the mayor.
González Cruz named Ruiz MacFarland, his education secretary and the daughter of Baja California Atty. Gen. Guillermo Ruiz, as his replacement with much fanfare about appointing the first female to the position. During a ceremony at City Hall on Oct. 16, Ruiz became the first female mayor of Tijuana, a border city of approximately 2.1 million residents.
“Today, my story will be written for being the first female [mayor] of Tijuana, but the commitment that I acquire is not limited there. I appreciate the trust placed in me ... " she said the day she was sworn-in. “I want history to write my name, as the first [female] Mayor who worked to contribute to the transformation of Tijuana and the transformation of Mexico.”
González Cruz said Thursday that “Tijuana is very grateful to her for the excellent work she did during this period,” of approximately three weeks. González Cruz delivered a letter Thursday to the municipal secretary of government, Carlos Murguía, indicating he would reassume his functions at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Ruiz did not respond to a request for comment.
The mayor said he hopes that Ruiz will resume her position as the municipal public education secretary, although he said Ruiz told him she would consider and make that decision with her family.
González Cruz said Ruiz was aware from the beginning that there was a possibility that he would return and denied that she was bothered by the sudden change.
If he requests a license again, by law, it would be Ruiz who would replace him again.
Bonilla said during his daily morning update streamed live on Facebook that he was not aware that González Cruz had returned to office before reporters began asking him about it on Thursday morning.
“This was a major embarrassment for the city of Tijuana,” Bonilla said in an interview late Thursday. “He has proven my point that he is not a stable person.”
Mendoza and Fry write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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