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Giuliani visits Mexico to fight crime

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MEXICO CITY — Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani strolled quietly through the mean streets of Mexico City before dawn, then became the center of media attention in a metropolis that is seeking his advice on cutting crime.

Newspapers on Wednesday devoted much of their front pages to the surprise visit by Giuliani, whose hefty consulting contract for tips on crime-fighting is an ongoing local controversy.

Television helicopters hovered overhead as crowds caught up to Giuliani and his armed escort with the sunrise Tuesday morning. "Giuliani patrols, guarded by 400" announced the newspaper El Universal.

"The Giuliani Circus Arrives!" proclaimed the afternoon paper Ovaciones.

The former mayor said it was too early to offer any suggestions: "This is still the beginning of a long process."

Mexican business leaders collected $4.3 million to hire Giuliani's consulting company, hoping he could help the Mexican capital match New York City's success in cutting crime.

Giuliani said Mexico City police leaders appear dedicated to cleaning up the city, and he was optimistic that New York-style "zero-tolerance" policies would work here.

"Although there are differences . . . the situation in some ways is very similar," he said, though he emphasized that any plan would take account of legal and cultural differences.

Giuliani said possibilities include raising the wages of the city's 35,000 police officers, who make an average of $570 a month.

Giuliani arrived on a private plane before dawn and strolled through rich and poor neighborhoods before local news media caught up with him. He was expected to leave late Wednesday.

The Daily News in New York reported last month that a Colombian rebel group was plotting to kidnap Giuliani here, but the former mayor scoffed at the idea Tuesday.

"Do I look concerned?" he said, smiling. "I'm not concerned."

Mexico City police commissioner Marcelo Ebrard said he believed Giuliani could help the city improve its crime record.

"We are optimistic that this relationship ... will be beneficial to both of us," he said.

But Patrolman Marcelino Flores grumbled that Giuliani was receiving millions of dollars for his advice 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."

Others suggested Giuliani was not prepared for the challenge of Mexico City.

"You can't compare New York to Mexico City," said taxi driver Alejandro Lagran, who twice has been kidnapped and robbed by passengers. "People there are richer and there is more control."