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For her part, Baja California's deputy attorney general, Subprocuradora Olga Jiménez Muñoz, is upbeat, even though she has 80 murders -- apart from the Tijuana police chief's -- to investigate from this year alone. In an upstairs office of a '50s-style building not far from where De la Torre was killed, she waxed almost lyrical. "Progress is magnificent. The [seven suspects] have already been auto de formal prisión, which means they've been formally indicted and are in jail without bail. A judge has already declared them probably responsible for a 'qualified felony.' "

To catch them, she says, the city, state, and federal police agencies -- notoriously suspicious of each other -- improved their cooperation. "The truth is, since the homicide of Alfredo de la Torre, several agencies have cooperated. The organized-crime unit from the [federal attorney general]...provided all help possible, as did the municipal police. They wanted to cooperate with us and even participated in the operativos -- raids -- executing search warrants. Before, everybody worked their investigations independently. This time it was together. Several agencies from California offered their labs -- even on Sundays. And cooperation with San Diego law enforcement is always good. We meet whenever is necessary."

So why hasn't the Mexican government asked the FBI to help locate murder suspects Juan de Dios Montenegro Tapia and officer Praxedis Osuna Solís yet? The delay may be due to U.S. law-enforcement opinions aired in the Union-Tribune shortly after De la Torre was killed. "Before De la Torre's death," the paper said on March 19, "[anonymous] informants told two U.S. agencies that the police chief was being paid by the Arellanos to allow drug loads to cross the border unimpeded."

"It's lamentable that the memory of a deceased person is not respected," says Jiménez Muñoz. "I personally think that if a person is dead, there isn't any need to make these kinds of allegations towards his person. If they knew that he had that kind of a relationship, they should have [exposed] it when he was alive, so he could respond."

But an anonymous Tijuana source once close to De la Torre told the Reader the U.S. assessment is accurate, insisting that the police chief had little choice but to cooperate with the cartel, given the power of the drug lords.

One indication things are reaching a new level of insecurity across the border is the news that the governor of Baja California, Alejandro González Alcocer, has acquired two armored cars. Tijuana's Frontera newspaper reports one is a gray 2000 model Suburban, which promises an "intermediate" level of protection; the other is a white 2000 model Ford Lobo pick-up with a double cabin and "highest-level" armor-plate protection, capable of stopping high-powered rifle bullets. Governor González told the paper he would use one vehicle and let the state attorney-general, Juan Manuel Salazar Pimentel, use the other.

Subprocuradura Jiménez has no armored car, but she has been budgeted two bodyguards. (Reliable sources claim she hired them from the municipal police, not from within her own state-police ranks.) She appears confident about her safety. "We knew this was what to expect when we came to the job," she says. "It's normal, nothing extraordinary."

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