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— "It used to be people would laugh about it here. They would say, 'The Americanos want drugs? Let them have as much as they want! Bring [home] the money.' Now [the drug transporters] don't bring back money; they bring back drugs. They need to cash in [sell drugs to Tijuana citizens]. It's very difficult. The result is a big social disease growing here in Tijuana."

Ironically, the changing political landscape of Mexico is giving Osuna hope.

"I came into office [as Tijuana mayor] in 1992. I promised the people three characteristics of government: I said mine would be a democratic government, it would be open to participation, and it would be functional, one that delivered results. We came up against one obstacle: citizens' lack of confidence in government, because the traditional [PRI] government had been very corrupt and neglected its relationship with the citizens for a long time. People said, 'This is just one more promise of a "new type" of government.'

"So we came up with something that even the World Bank saw as a novelty. We said, 'Okay. You don't have confidence in us, we have confidence in you!' We'd gather all the people, representatives from all the communities. We organized committees through our delegaciones -- local council offices -- we called out for the [committee members] to come and talk about the problems in their neighborhoods and list them out. And then 'make a selection of which ones you feel need attention most.' They made decisions. And we put resources in the hands of the citizens and said, 'You do it. Form a committee, here's the money,' say 100,000 pesos. 'If you put in 50,000 more, you'll be able to do more. You decide which construction company or whatever to hire. We'll just supervise and guide you through the process of organizing your committee, of technical aspects of your public works. We're just here to help you out.'

"We had 1006 different projects in our last year of government [1995]. I think, on average, they managed to get improvements done at about 60 percent of what it would have cost the government. And they contributed another 100 percent on top of [the money] we put in. So they achieved three times as much as we would have been able to do in the traditional way. Now the World Bank is applying this principle to municipal governments throughout Latin America. Not a penny was lost. The secret was you didn't give money to individuals. You gave money to committees of citizens."

It's in this devolution of power to the people, Osuna believes, that a way to fight drugs may be found. Osuna, who will start campaigning for his senatorial seat April 3, sees the prospect of persuading the national government to devolve more power and money in a similar way to all 2400 municipalities of Mexico. But his greatest hope lies in the upcoming presidential elections (July 2) and then the senatorial elections next year. "Our party [PAN] is a very influential force now in [the national] congress and for sure [in the senate]."

Osuna believes for the first time in modern history, an opposition party, PAN, has a real shot at the presidency. "Mexico has a great opportunity," he says. "[Vicente Fox Quesada], the candidate from the PAN opposition, starts very high in the eyes of Mexicans. Right now he is technically tied to Labastida [in polls]. We are very confident."

So how would a Fox presidency and a PAN-strong congress change anything on the drug-war front? Osuna says that for the first time the Mexican congress would not be a rubber stamp for the president. At least legalizing drugs could be discussed. "Probably the PAN will not get the majority, but the PAN and the PRD [the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution] will [together] for sure. It's going to be a new era for the senators. And I want to be there. It will be a new Mexico after the July [elections], I assure you of that."

Osuna is not impressed by today's visit by Labastida to the site where Colosio was killed. "It has been a political stance to go to the local shrine, for them, the PRI," he says. "People have many theories on the assassination, whether it was a political reason -- some of them say that narco-political interests were involved -- but the PRI haven't shown any will to really come up with the solution, to the why? in the killing of Colosio. I think a political martyr is what they are really looking for."

And after the arrest of seven suspects in the de la Torre murder, the house arrest of Jesús Labra Avilés (reputedly the master adviser of the Arrellano Félix cartel), and the promise of more government funds to throw at the problem, does he have hope for a governmental counterattack? "It all depends on what happens over the next month or so. If Mr. Labra is prosecuted, then it's for real. If he finds loopholes and gets away with it, [we'll know] it's the same old thing."

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