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Promoting Anzalduas Bridge to have empty truck business, and win back the public trust of commerce and tourism

By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez,

As originally published by Texas Border Business newsprint edition July 2016

Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca has had an impressive political career. It was January 29, 2016, when he resigned from the Chamber of Deputies to pursue the governorship of Tamaulipas. And if you have participated in politics, or followed politics you know they become exciting and interesting.

During the June 5th elections, García Cabeza de Vaca earned 50.1 percent of the vote, making him the first non-PRI governor of the Tamaulipas state in 86 years.

García Cabeza de Vaca has been the active member of Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), and he became mayor of the City of Reynosa serving from 2005 to 2007. During his political career, he has also served as a local and federal legislator, having served one term in the Chamber of Deputies and three and a half years in the Senate.

García Cabeza de Vaca has always had a strong relationship with the United States, especially with mayors of the Rio Grande Valley. He is a graduate of McAllen Memorial High School –he is a Mustang- and aside from loving his state, he has a special place for Texas, in particular for the Rio Grande Valley.

Such is his passion for international trade and admiration of his neighbors to the north that a few days after becoming the Governor-elect he had breakfast with three Valley mayors. On June 15, 2016, he met with Mayor Martin Cepeda of Hidalgo; Mayor Jim Darling of McAllen and his longtime friend Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas of Mission, Texas.

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The breakfast meeting took place at the Anzalduas International Bridge conference room to discuss important matters of international trade.

Mission bridge officials made it possible before their work session, so the local press had access to the new Tamaulipas Governor-elect.

Some of the actions that his government will take is to open an office in San Antonio and another one in the Valley to promote international trade. He believes that to be close to investors and to have a personal relationship will be vital to regain the public trust lost during the last years. He said, “We’re going to have an office here in the Valley as well because, well, my heart is here.”

“I have known the people of McAllen, Mission and Hidalgo for many years,” García Cabeza de Vaca said. He continued, “I’ve worked side by side, and it is important for me to have this opportunity today and to be able to send a message to make my interest known of my desire to work with the mayors of the Valley in Texas.”

García Cabeza de Vaca will become the governor of Tamaulipas on October 1, 2016, so his visit and meeting with Valley leaders before this significant date is a clear signal of stronger ties with Tamaulipas and México.

He said, “Not only because of the importance of being neighbors, allies or partners, but to nourish the friendship that for many years has united us.”

As he was responding to questions made by the press, García Cabeza de Vaca was flanked by mayors Salinas, Cepeda, and Darling. The City managers of Mission and McAllen, Martin Garza and Roel Rodriguez, respectably were also present.

The meeting was held at the Anzalduas Bridge administration offices hosted by Superintendent of Bridges Rigoberto “Rigo” Villarreal.

García Cabeza de Vaca pointed out that he will work with the mayors to promote economic development and to bring attention to the potential of Tamaulipas and Texas.

“We have limitless potential as a region, and our friendship is above all the most important factor between our two nations,” he said.

García Cabeza de Vaca is known to have strong feelings for the Rio Grande Valley, “Maybe some of you don’t know, and others might know, but I studied here.” He said, “I perfectly understand the situations happening on both sides of the border. I understand and value the commerce we have, the potential there is, the problems that exist and my interest as a governor of the state is to make the border more productive, competitive and above all safe.”

Numerous members of the media were eager to talk to him and ask questions about his immediate plans for his new government.

According to his comments, out of the 38 international crossings with the United States, 17 are between Tamaulipas and Texas, plus the Los Ebanos Ferry. “This is of great significance to me; I will work to promote economic and commercial development on both sides of the border, so I am at your disposal to answer your questions.”

MEDIA: This is a major challenge; you are generating many expectations about interacting on either side of the border. Other than the economic factors, would you also work with other states?

Governor-Elect: “Of course, I did it when I was the mayor of Reynosa, and as Senator of the Republic of Mexico. We’re going to work hand in hand with institutions from the United States. I had meetings with Border Patrol, with people from Homeland Security, and I will be in meetings with congressmen from the United States, like Congressman Henry Cuellar. I am being invited to go on a tour in Washington where I will explain the methods we will adopt as a state government. We need to work hand in hand, not only to strengthen the relationship but to understand the importance of guaranteeing the safety of our borders.” He continued, “Let’s remember, today we are competing with other countries in the world, like China and India, and by working side by side, we need to potentiate our region, and also guarantee that the flow of commerce between our two nations is quicker and more efficient. We will be more competitive and hopefully allow investors from many parts of the world to look over here at Tamaulipas and Texas. That is part of the role as governor. I remind you that there is a high potential in the energy field. I was part of the group of architect originators of the energy reform; I strongly believe that it will not only promote the economic development but give us the opportunity to work hand in hand with those that have a lot of experience in the oil and energy fields. The idea is to generate investments and create the jobs that are required.”

MEDIA: You had previously mentioned training police officers here in the United States. Is there any coordination going on with the Valley of Texas in that area?

Governor-Elect: I maintain my approach of training the Tamaulipas state police here in the United States. There are police academies well known in the US and around the world, and it’s important to me that we carry out the training here in the United States. It won’t be all of them, but it’ll be an important number that will allow us to have properly trained, well informed and certified law-enforcement officers.”

He continued, “The message is clear, and that is to generate the trust that is required, not only for our neighbors and commercial partners in the US but obviously also for the people of Tamaulipas, so they know that our police force will be well prepared and trained. I remind you that there are resources that have been used to strengthen the security structures in Mexico based on the Mérida Initiative. In the upcoming weeks, I will also have meetings with the Embassy of the United States. I’m very interested in working hand in hand with them. I said this during the campaign. I didn’t trick anyone; I just stated what actions would be taken on the government’s behalf. I am endorsing the commitment I made.”

MEDIA: A few months ago Congressman Cuellar said that he had independently helped the Merida Initiative in their fiscal budget of 2017, a specific amount had been set aside to battle corruption. Obviously as an incentive to increase border security for Mexico, Central, and South America. But this resource could only get to Mexico or other countries if there were a request and the strategy to use it. How will Tamaulipas have access to this recourse?

Governor-Elect: There is also an amount set aside to certify the penitentiary system, which is one of the biggest problems that the state of Tamaulipas has and we want to be able to work hand in hand with the government of the United States. Remember that what happens in Tamaulipas can also bring hardship to the US side. On my end, there is political will, and also the desire of constant communication with the authorities of the three levels of US government.

I have a good working relationship with Congressman Henry Cuellar, and we are planning to visit Washington and let them know the approach we have. The government of the United States and Texas want to have a trustworthy neighbor; someone they can work with hand in hand.

Here is an example: with my friends, the mayors, but also with the government of the state of Texas and with the federal government through the congressmen of this area. I repeat, I will be on a tour visiting Washington to delve deeper into all the strategies.  We will work to strengthen the border crossings, to guarantee safety, but also have well a prepared, trained and certified police force that will allow us to recover the public trust that we truly need for both sides of the border.”

MEDIA: Governor, what you just said regarding the penitentiary system is important, do you have any strategy to modify and to improve them?

Governor-Elect: “Well, we are talking with some specialists, and I will have more meetings with, and we will get more into details. There are some examples to follow as is the case of Ciudad Juarez. Their prison system became successful because they had strategic changes for better performance. The strategy avoided self-governments or governments in the penitentiary areas, which is one of the most serious problems that we have in the Mexican prison system, we will act particularly in the case of Tamaulipas. I repeat, we will work based on the actions that have been made in other places, like in Ciudad Juarez, they were very successful, and we will replicate their example to guarantee law and order in the penitentiary system of Tamaulipas.”

MEDIA: Will there be any special police so border towns near South Texas have joint actions and can, at a given moment, count on the individual resources to promote a series of infrastructure and security for both sides?

Governor-Elect: Well, for starters, let me tell you that regarding the infrastructure, we want to do that, and we will be taking the necessary actions to strengthen the border cities, not only regarding scenery but regarding having the proper flow at the border crossings. In particular, in this area, we will have meetings with the authorities of Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT). So that they allow us to use this bridge where we are standing on right now (Anzalduas Bridge), so it can also be used to cross empty trucks and later be allowed for the loaded truck to pass. Also, the possibility to open a new international bridge here close to this area. After all, I will be the channel, and also the person who’s most interested in easing the relation between both states, between both countries. I will speak with the Mexican authorities about this particular case of roads and bridges and with the people of the SAT and customs. In the case of Tamaulipas and Texas and the Valley, if international trade flows adequately, we become more competitive. I am going to try, but let’s remember that I am always respectful of the entities’ autonomy, but I know, and I am convinced that there will be a good reception and understanding.  We need to be more competitive, do actions that improve the quality of life on both sides of the border and take the necessary steps needed to bring more resources to South of Texas and the North of Tamaulipas. The efforts will allow us to generate incentives so that the investment grows. The border crossings are a fundamental piece for all of this. We are going to avoid all the bottlenecks that we have today due to lack of infrastructure, as you probably have thought of and it has been shared with me, the idea of a railway border crossing. Making the area more competitive. And what’s the message? Not only is it going to be the will that the next governor will have, but we’ll have to speak with the Mexican authorities and Washington so they can understand that these actions will allow us to become competitive in every aspect of the global trade.

It’s important to make them understand the needs of this area because that will enable us to promote and increase economic development on both sides of the border. On my behalf, I’ll go as many times as necessary to Mexico City or Washington to personally take this message. I’ll even travel to other parts of the world to create trust like I did when I visited Korea during my term as mayor of Reynosa. I’ll speak with the investors so they know that I will be there as governor of the state. Not only will I guarantee them their investments, but there will be a personalized treatment that we’re going to sell ourselves not only as a state but as a region. We sell ourselves more as a region, we will be attractive to the investors, and I will do my job, I will work hand in hand with the mayors in the Valley to sell and make this entire area a region allowing for self-economic development.”

MEDIA: Can the mayor’s comment about what they expect from the new government of Tamaulipas?

Governor-Elect: Yes, of course.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling: “I think we have a good relationship, but now with the governor that’s been the mayor of Reynosa and who understands the local government issues on the border, certainly state issues on the frontier, we can make that a great opportunity for us to grow together. We know that in McAllen, because of our economic development efforts, that what happens in Reynosa happens to McAllen, what happens in Tamaulipas happens to McAllen, Mission, and the region. We understand that very importantly. And now I think we have a governor at Tamaulipas that understands that just as well or better than us. And so I believe that this is a fantastic opportunity for us to work closer together. Two years ago we were in Korea, and I put on a presentation on how international economic development works, because we had the economic development people from Reynosa, from Tamaulipas and McAllen together, and it was the only one in the world that was working internationally. And so that’s a great start to building on and with the governor, I think we can build on that even more fantastically than it’s happened in the past.”

The governor-elect said that his government has plans to establish an office in San Antonio that’s going to promote the economic development of Tamaulipas. “The idea is to have a personal relationship with entrepreneurs and all those people that are interested in investing in Tamaulipas. I’m talking more in the energy sector, which is going to be paramount. The area is going to benefit because like Mayor Jim Darling says, what is good for Tamaulipas is going to be good for Texas and what is good for Reynosa is going to be good for the Valley.”

The Governor-elect explained that cities own international bridges in the US, but in Mexico, they are the property of the federal government. That is why he stressed the importance to talking to the authorities of SAT and let them know that permits are needed to cross the empty trucks through the Anzalduas Bridge. He also plans to inform them that infrastructure is necessary to have the proper flow of international trade in all the border crossings.

MEDIA: How are you going to stress that importance to expedite that?

Governor-Elect: Well the current numbers say it all, you know? There’s a lot of tax revenue made by all export trade that we make. So those are some of the things that I’m going to have as an argument for the federal government, that they need to give something back, you know? For the infrastructure, especially infrastructure that is required here in the international bridges.”

MEDIA: There’s a lot of people in the Valley of Texas that have relatives in the state of Tamaulipas and all over Mexico. Those families are afraid to cross over to Tamaulipas, because of safety issues. In the last 10, 12, 15 years, the government of Tamaulipas has not been as good as previous years. What’s your plan that could be a new strategic plan?

Governor-Elect: “One of the things that we’re going to do to gain back that public trust, is by taking over the major roads in Tamaulipas, where we’re going to have a special police force working together with the federal police, with the marines, and the army. This way we’ll have control of all the roads as a consequence tourism and commerce will go back the way it was before. That’s one of the primary actions that I’m going to take, as soon as I take possession as governor of Tamaulipas.”

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