- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

MEXICO CITY Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani toured some of Mexico City's roughest neighborhoods yesterday, his first step in creating a plan to fight the capital's violence and corrupt cops.
Trailed by armed guards and protected by armored vehicles, Mr. Giuliani waved off a report that Colombian rebels had been planning to kidnap him in Mexico City, and said he didn't have any recommendations yet for changes.
"This is still the beginning of a long process," he said.
The surprise two-day visit was Mr. Giuliani's first to the city since business leaders collected $4.3 million to hire his consulting firm to help Mexico City put together a plan to reform the police and crack down on crime.
Mr. Giuliani said city police leaders appear dedicated to cleaning up the city, and he was optimistic that the zero-tolerance policies he used to reduce crime by 65 percent in New York City would also work in Mexico City.
"Although there are differences the situation in some ways is very similar," he said.
Still, Mr. Giuliani stressed that cultural and legal differences would mean tailoring any plan to Mexico City's needs.
"There are differences and you have to take account of them," he said.
Mr. Giuliani arrived on a private plane before dawn, strolling through both rich and poor neighborhoods as the sun rose in an effort to avoid the television cameras that soon caught up with him.
He was expected to leave today after meeting with security officials, lawmakers and business leaders. One possibility he is looking at is raising the wages of the city's 35,000 police officers, who make an average of 6,000 pesos ($570) a month.
Mexico City Police Commissioner Marcelo Ebrard said he believed Mr. Giuliani could help the city.
So far, officials have had daily telephone conversations, and four meetings in New York. Other members of Mr. Giuliani's consulting firm have also visited the city.
The New York Daily News reported last month that a Colombian rebel group was plotting to kidnap Mr. Giuliani during his visit to Mexico City, but he scoffed at the idea yesterday.
"Do I look concerned?" he said, smiling. "I'm not concerned."
Some have said Mr. Giuliani is in over his head in Mexico City, which has 18 million people.
Alejandro Diez, president of the city congress's public security commission, criticized the former mayor's neighborhood walks as "touristic strolls."
President Vicente Fox has pressured the city government to crack down on crime in the capital, where residents face the constant threat of theft, kidnappings and the other violence.
Police and judges are infamously corrupt, and have often been caught orchestrating kidnappings and robberies. Bribes are often used to resolve everything from traffic tickets to homicide charges.
The drivers of the city's green-and-white Volkswagen bug taxis sometimes kidnap passengers, holding them for days and forcing them to make withdrawals from automatic teller machines until their bank accounts are empty.
Directing traffic as Mr. Giuliani emerged from his news conference yesterday, Patrolman Marcelino Flores grumbled that Mr. Giuliani was receiving millions of dollars for his two-day trip, while he only made $475 a month.
"The first thing Giuliani needs to do is raise salaries; the next is training," he said. "Salaries here are way too low if they want a clean police force."

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