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President Enrique Peña Nieto, in a visit to Tijuana just 11 days after his inauguration, said the state of Baja California will be on his radar. He said he would look into measures to improve the state's economy, such as reducing electricity rates and adjusting the parameters of the border strategic economic zone, Tijuana media reported.
Photo: San Diego Mayor Bob Filner shakes hands with President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto also performed an inauguration of sorts of the Baja California Center for Musical Arts, home of the Baja California Orchestra and site of music classes for Baja California youth. The first phase of the center, near El Trompo Museum in eastern Tijuana, was built in 2010. There are plans to make the orchestra into a symphony over time and to offer a music degree in the near future.
Peña Nieto said he would like to see more such centers open to youths of all socioeconomic groups in other parts of Mexico. He used the venue to talk about how youths studying music can be kept from being "kidnapped" by recruiters for organized crime. He said his government was budgeting 115 billion pesos (nearly $10 billion) for crime prevention.
While at the music center, Peña Nieto briefly met San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who was inaugurated last week, and invited the mayor to visit him in Mexico City.
Peña Nieto also spoke with business leaders at Mayor Carlos Bustamante's Grand Hotel Tijuana. Many business leaders, when they found out Peña Nieto was not wearing a tie, took theirs off, Tijuana media reported. The president got a large number of requests for government action. El Sol de Tijuana reported that he called this not a letter to Santa Claus, but one to the Three Wise Men. In Mexico, Three Kings Day on Jan. 6 has traditionally been the day for big gift-giving, not Christmas Day.
Baja California is the only state holding statewide and municipal elections next year. Frontera reported that Peña Nieto had sent out orders that it appear that he favor no candidate. He was escorted by Bustamante, a possible gubernatorial candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, and did speak briefly with federal Deputy Fernando Castro Trenti. Castro Trenti and former Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon are considered the top gubernatorial contenders for the PRI nomination. Hank was not present, but the Tijuana Xolos soccer team sponsored by his Caliente Group came in for praise from the president. The Xolos won the national soccer championship earlier this month. Hank was defeated in the 2007 governor's race by José Guadalupe Osuna Millán of the National Action Party. Wednesday was Virgin of Guadalupe Day, and Peña Nieto congratulated Osuna for his saint day and birthday, which are two days apart; Osuna turned 57 on Monday.
Many experts think that the president will be choosing the PRI's gubernatorial candidate, although some say the Baja California PRI may have a greater say in the decision.
Many analysts think Baja California voters will return the PRI to the Baja California governorship, which it has not held since 1989, in part because they will see the potential benefits of having a state run by the same political party that holds the presidency. The state's five mayorships all returned to the PRI fold in 2010 but are up for election again next year. Peña Nieto's visit to Baja California and his saying the state is on his agenda are a likely a signal to voters who are considering what party to vote for next year.
U-T San Diego story on Peña Nieto's visit (It does not mention San Diego Mayor Bob Filner meeting Peña Nieto, and says Tijuana's Grand Hotel is "blocks away from the U.S. border." The hotel is perhaps 30 or more blocks from the border, or 2.4 miles as the crow flies, according to Google Earth.
Photo of Filner and Peña Nieto shaking hands courtesy of City of San Diego.