Embattled Mexican mayor sent family to live in US

AP News
|
Posted: Nov 23, 2009 11:22 PM

The mayor of a wealthy suburb of this northern industrial city said Monday that he has sent his family to the United States for their own safety as he pursues his campaign against extortion and kidnapping gangs.

Mayor Mauricio Fernandez of San Pedro Garza Garcia, who drew questions a few weeks ago when he announced during a speech that a kidnapping gang leader was dead before police found the body, said some of his relatives have been targeted by kidnap plots and he himself has received threats.

He sent his family to the U.S. months ago, when he decided to run for the mayorship, and says that even after winning the post in July and being sworn in Oct. 31 it is not safe enough for them to return.

"It is obvious that there is a risk when you confront these things," Fernandez told The Associated Press in an interview. "Right now my family is away, in the United States, and right now things are not safe enough to have them come back."

"One of my daughters suffered a kidnap attempt two years ago. I have suffered these things in my own life," he added, although he did not describe the threats he himself received.

Fernandez said he plans to forge ahead with his plan to form an intelligence network of civilians and police to inform on organized crime activities.

"We are creating an intelligence or information group of about 1,000 people," he said. "Five hundred will be civilians _ it is a civilian network. There will also be police and traffic police _ they are the other group of 500 _ who will be trained to process information aimed at crime prevention."

Earlier this year, Fernandez spoke of creating groups that would do "rough work, I would call it cleansing." Asked this month about those groups, he suggested they might operate outside the law.

But he appeared eager Monday to stress that the new teams would operate entirely within the law.

His 600 million-peso ($46 million) anti-crime plan will also include aerial surveillance balloons and 1,500 cameras connected to a police command center.

Fernandez, who served as mayor of the suburb from 1989 to 1991, said his tough approach was already having effect.

"Organized crime gangs were demanding protection payments, and now they are not asking anymore, so apparently these measures are working," he said.

One thing the mayor would not talk about was his apparent advance knowledge about the death of a kidnapper who had reportedly threatened him in October.

He announced during a speech Oct. 31 that the purported kidnapper had been slain _ hours before the body was found hundreds of miles away in Mexico City.

Fernandez said Monday that he was tired of talking about that case and threatened to end the interview if questioned further about it. He has been interviewed by federal prosecutors investigating the case.