Governor lends insight on vision to the south

by Keith Rosenblum – Oct. 31, 2009

Sonora, the Mexican state that shares a border with Arizona, has a new governor, Guillermo Padrés Elías. His election was a breakthrough for plural democracy in Sonora, ending a long run of single-party governance. Here are excerpts from his interview Monday with The Arizona Republic Editorial Board:

Question: You mentioned that your election represented a change in political party for the first time in 80 years in Sonora. What brought about that change?

Answer: The main change is in attitude. We’ve got to be very aggressive in making sure we create the jobs we need, provide the security we need and invest in the infrastructure we need so we can be a very productive state. We produce, but we don’t have the infrastructure to send what we produce to the world or give it an added value. That’s what we’re working on.

Q: What can Arizona do to improve its relationship with Sonora?

A: By helping us so that people in Arizona know what we have (in Sonora) and know the real climate – and I’m not just talking about the outside climate – the investment climate, the potential we (have) in tourism, (how) safe it is to invest down there. . . .

One thing that is helping a lot is this investment you’re doing in Mariposa (land port of entry at Nogales, the nation’s third-busiest border station). This (expansion) you’re doing on the border is going to help us bring our produce (to Arizona) in a lot less time. We’re going to be more efficient. That creates jobs.

Q: What are you doing to create more jobs so Mexicans can find work there?

A: A better relationship with Arizona will help a lot. But we have very aggressive plans of establishing companies (in Sonora). We’ll do our part so they will find Sonora attractive. We have programs that’ll provide the money they need for small factories, small businesses. Many of these programs are in the rural areas, where they need money, training and legal assistance to be successful.

Q: Some politicians have turned Arizona into ground zero for immigration. How does Sonora see us?

A: First of all, I’ve got to be very respectful of every level of politician here and the internal decisions you make, policies you make and bills you put out. I respect Gov. (Jan) Brewer a lot because she’s been a very good neighbor and a very good friend.

But I’ve always defended the rights of our nationals. . . . I feel that some policies you’ve passed are hurtful to people.

Q: Which of Arizona’s immigration policies have been tough on Mexicans?

A: I want to be very careful in touching those issues because I don’t want to get into the politics that are here (in Arizona). So, I’ll just give you my version. I thought . . . the employment sanctions were a little bit hard on the people who were sent back to Mexico that couldn’t take their belongings. But I don’t want my point of view to get in the way of the relations I need to have with Arizona.

Q: Do you support a guest-worker program?

A: Yes. I’d like to see that so people can come (to Arizona) and work legally. It would help a lot. You would know who is (in Arizona), where they’re from. They’d be treated better. They’d pay taxes. I think everybody would win.

Q: You say Sonora is safe, but there is a lot of worry about the level of violence, particularly from the drug cartels in Mexico. What steps are you taking in Sonora to deal with drug trafficking and violence?

A: We are a lot safer state than a lot of cities here in the United States. If you go to the statistics – which I don’t have with me; I’m just talking in a general sense – but if you go to those numbers and check how many people that come from the United States to visit us who have ever seen, felt or have been harmed down there, you’ll find that it’s nearly zero.

Nobody that visits us is in harm’s way. The numbers and the news you get from (Sonora) is fighting the cartels, that’s all. People who are involved or have been involved in illegal activity. . . .

Just in this month, in the few days I’ve been in office, we’ve captured a historic amount of people related to organized crime. Nearly 60 people we have captured.

Q: President Felipe Calderón has stood up to the drug cartels, and from what we read, there’s a lot of anxiety in Mexico about that. How do you see it?

A: I’ve heard positive voices and heard people criticize what’s happening, but I think it had to be done. We’ve got to realize that the problem is there. It has been there for a lot of years. And we’ve got to take a stand. . . .

What people should be saying in other countries is excellent, every person they capture and every person that’s out of organized crime is one less person who could cause some harm or could facilitate the drugs to our kids.

Q: Specifically what problems do you see if you are sending 150 additional state police officers to Nogales?

A: When you have a very firm policy on fighting crime, when you hit some strategic places where organized crime is working, like we did in the south of Sonora, sometimes they’ll have to move. So, you’ve got to protect other places. We’re just making sure that Nogales won’t feel that pressure.

Q: What kind of impact do people who are being deported have on cities such as Nogales?

A: It’s a strong impact. People who get deported stay in the border towns and wait for another opportunity to come (to Arizona). They need jobs. They need places to stay. . . .

Mostly, the people that get deported from the United States that are received by the immigration authorities in Mexico, they know where they’re from and will be sent back to their states. But a lot of people who are coming (to Arizona), some of them live a couple of months or years in the border towns.

Q: There’s been some discussion that Guaymas could be Arizona’s port. How is that coming along?

A: Very good. We’re investing more and more to make it the port that could handle all the business that Arizona could need, or New Mexico, some parts of California, Colorado or Nevada.

In my campaign, I always talked that if our state is to grow, it has to have the infrastructure to do that. Part of the infrastructure we need is to have a deep-water port so we can receive all the commercial business that doesn’t have a chance to get through California.

We need a big cargo airport in Hermosillo and also better railways (to handle) the commercial traffic we are planning to get.

Q: What percentage are we toward where you’d like to see the port of Guaymas?

A: I think we’d be half way.


As an expat living in Sonora I found this interview very interesting.  I hope you do as well.