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Controversy Sourrounds Giuliani's Mexico City Anti-Crime Program - 2002-11-19

Monday was to have been the first day of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's visit to crime-plagued Mexico City under a contract to help authorities there establish law and order. Mr. Giuliani postponed the trip because of scheduling conflicts, but the controversy over his contract has not abated.

Although he is not here in Mexico City, city officials say Mr. Giuliani is being kept informed by people in his advance team who have been here to work with local authorities. Still, details about how the former New York Mayor will tackle the runaway crime rate here in Mexico remain scant.

During a visit to El Paso, Texas, reporters asked Mr. Giuliani about his contract in Mexico City. In scenes played on Mexico's Televisa network, Mr. Giuliani provided little information about his contract.

"The payment is through a private organization and we will see how much it turns out to be," he said. "I do not know that I can properly answer that question now. It is a long-term engagement and it will go on for at least a year."

Mr. Giuliani did say, however, that the methods used to reduce crime in New York and other U.S. cities could be applied in Mexico City. He said it is important to analyze patterns of crime in various parts of the city in order to attack the specific problems of each area.

"Crime is not happening everywhere," he said. "It is happening in certain parts of the cities and different crimes are happening in different places."

Mexicans are intrigued by the prospect of New York's former crime-fighting mayor coming to town, but many remain skeptical about how effective he might be here. There are also many critics of the more than $4 million being paid to Mr. Giuliani and his team under a contract with the city.

Most of that money will come from the nation's largest employers group, known as COPARMEX, Confederacion Paternal de la Republica Mexicana, and other wealthy private donors. But Mexico City Police Chief Marcelo Ebrard says ordinary citizens are also being asked to contribute. He says that a special bank account is being established so that anyone who wishes to donate money to help pay Mr. Giuliani may do so.

Mr. Ebrard has also denied that the former New York Mayor will have his own team of bodyguards with him when he finally does come here to tour the city. Mr. Ebrard says eight specially trained Mexico City police officers will accompany Mr. Giuliani here.

While Mr. Giuliani has been credited with reducing crime in New York by 65 percent during his term in office, critics say the situation in Mexico City is very different from what Mr. Giuliani faced in New York. Mexico City is crowded with some 18 million residents, the majority of whom live in poverty.

Crime victims also complain about a police force that they describe as both incompetent and corrupt. Human Rights groups also express concern that a crackdown on crime might increase what they say is already a well-established tendency of police to abuse suspects until they confess to a crime.