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Giuliani's Tough New Gig

October 21, 2002

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a man of outsize ego and personality, has signed a contract with Mexico City's mayor to help him stop a seemingly uncontrollable wave of kidnappings, robberies and murder there. Giuliani, who was happy to take some credit for New York's drop in crime in the 1990s, will have a tougher challenge in Mexico.

First, he won't be the boss -- for the mercurial Giuliani, a tongue-biting dilemma. He'll just be the consultant -- though with a package deal of $4.3 million paid by a group of Mexico City businessmen, he'll be a well-paid hired hand.

Giuliani has put together a team of 15 former associates, among them former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, former city Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, and Richard Sheirer, former coordinator of New York City's Office of Emergency Management. They will have a year to evaluate Mexico City's police force and make recommendations.

Which brings up problem No. 2: On average, Mexico City police are paid about $6,500 annually, less than half a livable middle-class salary. Underpaying cops is a fast route to crime-promoting corruption, not just in Mexico but much of Latin America.

Giuliani deserves credit for seeking a way to do good, even well-compensated good. Perhaps he'll model the rest of his postelectoral career on former President Jimmy Carter, whose continued efforts to promote global human rights helped earn him the Nobel Peace Prize. Giuliani already has a leg up on former President Clinton, who is still casting about for his proper role -- on TV or elsewhere. Or the democratic hero of Poland, Lech Walesa, reportedly hired to host a television program on fishing.

Giuliani certainly hasn't taken an easy path. In Mexico City, an estimated two-thirds of all crimes go unreported because no one trusts presumably crooked cops. If he can change that, he'll have other Latin American leaders knocking at his door.

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