TIJUANA (Border Report) — Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero is being applauded for “being gutsy” and “standing up to drug cartels,” but others worry her statements are reckless and have only placed a bullseye on her back.
Caballero has held several news conferences since Friday night when a cartel promised widespread mayhem in Tijuana and other cities across Northern Baja California.
During one encounter with the media, Caballero suggested that organized crime organizations settle their debts with “those who owe them and not families or citizens.”
But Mario Delgado Carrillo, president of the executive committee for the Morena Party, to which Caballero and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador belong, called the mayor’s comments “unfortunate and militant.”
“You can’t tell them to ‘collect from those who owe you,'” he said. “The most important thing is to coordinate efforts within your government to make sure this doesn’t happen again instead of encouraging further acts of violence.”
Adán Augusto López Hernández, Mexico’s Interior Secretary, blamed Caballero’s comments on “nerves getting the best of her.”
“I wouldn’t give it too much importance,” he said. “Let’s understand the time and circumstances of the news conference (happened early Saturday morning) she had been through very tense moments with all the vehicle fires and that’s what probably prompted her comments.”
Since her initial meeting with the media, Caballero has gone on to make other comments that have been considered incendiary, such as, “We’re not going to let organized crime dictate the rules to us,” and “Don’t involve my people, the citizens of Tijuana.”
She’s also tried to justify her remarks by saying, “People along the border speak boldly and wildly.”
But on social media, most of the responses to her statements have been very critical.
A woman named Liz said, “It’s best she doesn’t say anything instead of speaking ‘wildly’ while trying to justify her lack of communication skills.”
A man named Conrado Acevedo tweeted, “It’s great we speak directly and boldly along the border but you should not be promoting ‘collecting debts to narcos.'”
Miguel Cataro wrote, “She wants to fix things by letting crime go on as long as it’s between criminals.”
And Rafa, from Mexicali, tweeted, “Everything is clear, allow these criminals to please continue torturing, mutilating and shooting themselves publicly as long as they don’t bother the public, perfect.”
A citizens group that calls itself Movimiento Ciudadano de Baja California, is demanding an apology from Caballero.
It sent a statement to media outlets across the state saying: “We are demanding a public apology from the mayor for the offensive remarks made against the citizenry, if not we will ask the state’s congress to begin removal procedures against her.”
On Tuesday, Caballero went on a national radio broadcast to “clarify” her comments on Joaquin López Dóriga’s show with Radio Fórmula based in Mexico City.
“I want to clear things up, I did not mean to normalize criminal activity in Tijuana … the message that night from organized crime was for citizens to stay inside, no criminal is going to order what we can do, we’re not going to allow it, all I meant to say is we’re not going to allow you to touch any Tijuana resident.”