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— Osuna has heard it all from foreign journalists before.

"Cities grow and violence does also," he says a little tiredly. "Los Angeles, in absolute numbers, has more violence than Tijuana. New York, also. Per thousand inhabitants."

Outsiders, says Osuna, have an attitude problem in the way they see Tijuana.

"The perception of Tijuana is taught," he says. "Through the generations...from the history of the era of Prohibition in the U.S., when Americans came here to drink, to some of today's young people who come to Rosarito and believe they can do anything.... These are well-entrenched images of our city, which have been with us for so long. We have spent a lot of hours and work to change that. And it's not only North Americans. My administration registered the name of 'Tijuana,' [at Mexico's trademark office] because Mexico City people wanted to make a TV series called Tijuana, filled with prostitution, drugs, narco-traffickers, and maquiladoras exploiting the people. No! This made us mad."

"Los Angeles has narco-traffickers. New York has narco-traffickers. Who gives the dealers millions and millions of dollars? New Yorkers and L.A. customers do. Do we have them in Mexico too? Yes, of course we have them. This is affecting our society now also. But I believe that our federal authorities have done good work between '95 and '98. And this the Americans don't recognize when they were [debating whether to] certify Mexico [as an ally in the war on drugs].

"The salaries of our police have been increased -- in the [last] three years around 100 percent -- not counting inflation. With inflation it would be about 40 percent. And for the first time, we have a helicopter for the police. In all I believe the battle has been engaged. At the least we're keeping up with other cities. We're lowering the crime rate. The younger police have a greater commitment and have a more complete education now. There is movement in the three levels of [police], municipal, state, and federal. The municipal level, especially, is progressing very quickly, which is important because they are the officers out front, on the firing line."

Kidnapping, he acknowledges, is a growing reality. "Yes, it's a problem. No, it is not a serious problem. It is because the city is growing. Also, it's a manifestation of the problems of violence and economic problems that come from other states in Mexico: Sinaloa, Sonora, Nayarit. We have to eradicate that. But let me give you an example of perception: When the Republican convention was in San Diego [in August 1996], all the world came. Including a lot of reporters. And we said, 'Let's invite them to our city so they can get a real picture of Tijuana.' And then a Japanese man was kidnapped [Sanyo executive Mamoru Konno was abducted August 10 and released after ten days in exchange for $2 million]. The same year there was an assassination at UCSD of a professor [Tsunao Saitoh, 46, a Japanese Alzheimer's researcher, and his daughter Loullie, 13, were killed in La Jolla in May 1996], and that wasn't news! But the kidnap of the Japanese executive -- big news. I certainly feel we have security problems like any other big city in the world. But I think that they have been magnified. Do they have kidnappings in Japan? Yes. There are kidnappings in Tokyo, for sure.

"In 1994, when Colosio was killed here in Tijuana, people in many parts of Mexico said Tijuana people are killers. No, no, no! We are victims like Colosio. In Dallas they are all killers? Or L.A., where Robert Kennedy was killed? No. It is part of the circumstances.

"We have worked hard to achieve what we have now. We are going to be a city with more opportunities for all, more habitable and better for our children. Better for them than it was for us in the past. There's still a 20-to-1 economic difference between San Diego and Tijuana. But we two [cities] are an interdependent community. No one is ever going to separate us. Not even an atomic bomb."

I ask if he has ever contemplated a uniting of the two cities, perhaps forming a bilingual, intra-national city like Singapore or Venice of old? On paper, I draw a circle encompassing a mythical San Diego-Tijuana with a line through the middle. He shakes his head. Then he reaches out and starts drawing pairs of vertical lines cutting through the center.

"Two cities," he says, "but bridges. Lots of bridges."

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