Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Former Tijuana police official arrested for torture; ex-chief sought

A former Tijuana police official is under arrest and an arrest warrant has been issued for the city’s notorious ex-chief of police in a decade-old case of alleged torture against their own officers.

Former Minister of Public Security Gustavo Huerta Martínez was taken into custody Friday for allegedly torturing four police officers in 2010.

The accusations filed by officer José Luis Hernández Gálvez and three others and relate to an incident in which Korean athletes attending a Tae Kwon Do tournament in Tijuana say they were robbed by police during a traffic stop.

Huerta and then police chief Julián Leyzaola Pérez, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, are accused of torturing the officers involved until they confessed. 

Officer Hernández claims he was brutally beaten, suffering 18 separate wounds on his body which included a broken pelvis. 

Leyzaola, is welcomed by the mayor of Cancún in 2017 after he was hired to clean up crime.
Ex-Tijuana police chief Leyzaola is welcomed by the mayor of Cancún in 2017 after he was hired to clean up crime.

“They started punching me in the stomach, hard, Leyzaola on my right side, Huerta on my left,” Hernández told The New Yorker in 2010. “They started using rebar and an AR-15 rifle against my back, while still punching from the front.” The beatings lasted for four months, Hernández said. 

Leyzaola was at one time viewed as a “supercop.” During his tenure as police chief in both Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, murders, extortions and kidnappings dropped dramatically. 

He received accolades from the United States for his leadership and crackdown on crime in the two border cities. 

Seven attempts were made on Leyzaola’s life, and one incident in May 2015 left him paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair. 

Leyzaola ran twice for mayor of Tijuana, and in 2017 was named as a security advisor to police in Cancún as that city struggled with a wave of drug-related violence. 

But accusations of torture and other crimes, not limited to the one for which he currently stands accused, have dogged him as well.

The Baja California Human Rights Office, Mexico’s Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Washington Office on Latin America and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights have all denounced Leyzaola for abuses, including torture, committed in 2009 and 2010 in Tijuana. 

Human rights organizations also denounced Huerta last month after the mayor appointed him official spokesman for Tijuana police.

Source: Norte Digital (sp), The New Yorker (en), El Imparcial (sp), AFN Tijuana (sp)

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