A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
Any problems between federal Sen. Fernando Castro Trenti and Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante seemed to be forgotten in November as Castro Trenti attended Bustamante's first state-of-the-city address, and Bustamante then attended Castro Trenti's state-of-the-Senate address four days later.
Castro Trenti plans to run for the Institutional Revolutionary Party nomination for Baja California governor in 2013, and Bustamante, who has been at odds with Castro Trenti, looks to be backing Jorge Hank Rhon for the PRI's nod. Bustamante came under fierce criticism for recently holding a building material giveaway event at Hank's Caliente complex.
All that seemed to be forgotten Saturday (Nov. 26), however, as Bustamante made an appearance at Castro Trenti's fifth annual report on his Senate activities at the municipal auditorium. Bustamante (left in photo) and Castro Trenti (right) stood together for quite a while and smiled for the cameras.
The auditorium is also the site of boxing matches, and when Castro Trenti later entered the ring to deliver his address, he delivered high praise to Bustamante's father, Alfonso, who died in January 2011.
Bustamante was accompanied by a number of his top aides, but not by top official Yolanda Enriquez de la Fuente, who has been subject to impeachment proceedings in the state legislature, where Castro Trenti has sway.
The two events were quite different, other than having filled their venues. Bustamante invited the city's elite to hear his Nov. 22 address; Castro Trenti bused in residents from poor neighborhoods to his Nov. 26 event and told them that he was one of them. Castro Trenti had previously made similar presentations in other Baja California cities; this was more of a political rally than a report on his activities. Banners in the auditorium pushed his candidacy for governor in 2013; Castro Trenti told the media that the banners were not put up at his behest, but were brought in independently by groups who want him to be governor. Castro Trenti even has a man dressed as a peasant attend his rallies using the name "Juan Pueblo," or "Joe Public", as seen in right photo. Many of Castro Trenti's supporters were members of PRI-aligned unions.
State-of-the-city format: The format for the state-of-the-city address was for a city council representative from each political party to give a five-minute speech. Then the mayor delivered his address, which included multimedia presentations.
Councilman Julio César Vázquez Castillo of the Workers Party spoke more than nine minutes. He noted that Tijuana is difficult to govern, in large part because of the continuing influx of migrants. He urged new police chief Alberto Capella to get some elements of his police force under control. He recognized that there are good police, and indeed, in October, he raced his vehicle to a government center with a police presence after assailants in another vehicle tried to rob him after he had withdrawn money from an ATM.
Police allegedly try to extort U.S. tourist.
In her nearly seven-minute speech, Councilwoman Najla Souraya Wehbe Dipp of the New Alliance Party focused on education. Her party was formed by national teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo. Her congratulations to Bustamante for the city's success in getting 100% coverage for the Progreso scholarships instead of the 50% it was getting drew loud applause. She said the scholarships help 4,200 preschool, primary and middle school student in Tijuana. She also thanked Bustamante for his efforts to build a satellite campus for CBTIS 146 so that more than 170 students can attend high school this school year. "Nevertheless, Señor Mayor, I would like to remind you of your promise to build two new high schools, a matter that is still pending."
Update, February: Park to be sacrificed for new high school.
Councilman Rodolfo Hernandez Bojorquez of the Social Encounter Party, who spoke for nearly 7 1/2 minutes, said there are clearer rules for the city's finances under Bustamante. His pitch to eliminate the Playas de Tijuana tollbooth on the federal Tijuana-Ensenada toll road received applause. His push for stricter enforcement of rules against the portrayal of women as sex objects on public transport vehicles and billboards also was applauded loudly. He also encouraged the government to create a much more friendly city for the handicapped, seeking for the city to name next year as "2012: The Year of Paying Attention to Handicapped Citizens." That also was applauded.
Councilman Erwin Aréizaga
Uribe of the National Action Party played the role of pitbull in his speech, which lasted nearly five minutes. First, he praised the city for its ongoing effort to install 64,000 lighting fixtures, for the paving projects it is pursuing, and the move to house many city agencies in the Plaza San Angel building instead of paying rent. He said the PAN had been a responsible opposition, backing 98% of the executive's initiatives. Then he blasted Bustamante for holding the giveaway at Hank's compound, particularly because Hank is planning to run for governor in 2013. He was critical of the lack of discipline within the police force. It was Aréizaga
Uribe's complaint about Enriquez de la Fuente's slow reaction to city police having a suspect strip in a police station that caused the PRI-dominated legislature to initiate its investigation into her. Aréizaga
Uribe also was critical of the mayor's renegotiation of the city's debt, saying it would cost the city more in the long run. Aréizaga
Uribe also questioned the city's 15-million peso $1.1 million) contribution to the Tijuana Xolos soccer team sponsored by Hank's Caliente group. He also said Bustamante was engaging in nepotism with city jobs, saying the mayor's brother, cousin and nephew are on the payroll. This drew a negative reaction from the crowd. Aréizaga
Uribe said the city's finance chief, Rufo Ibarra, had his son serving as his coordinator of advisers and his nephew, Alberto Capella Ibarra, is the new police chief. Aréizaga
Uribe said it was time to stop giving transportation concessions to friends. His speech ended to catcalls and whistles from the crowd, and Bustamante smiled.
Update, Feb. 1: PAN council members give their state-of-city presentation at PAN headquarters in Tijuana. Story, Frontera (PDF).
Green Party Councilman Mariano San Román Flores spoke a little more than seven minutes. His gratitude to police who lost their lives while performing their duties was met with loud applause. He lauded the program "Tijuana Te Queremos Verde" ("Tijuana We Want You Green") but made no mention of the project where the Arroyo Alamar is being lined with cement.
PRI Councilwoman Miriam Josefina Ayón Castro spoke 7 1/2 minutes. She drew applause when she mentioned that Tijuana's debt was the result of previous administrations, and said the debt renegotiation means the city has freed resources to help the poorest Tijuanenses. She drew applause when she said the administration is trying to get a better handle on the city's transportation problems through the registration, identification and training of transport operators. She said she thought sobriety checkpoints the city has been putting up will save lives. She said she thought the PRI majority was working together with council members of all parties to better the city. She was part of a group of council members from various parties formed earlier this year who thought they were not being consulted closely enough by the mayor.
Also among those in attendance at the state-of-the-city event was Baja California Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Bustamante began his address by asking for a minute of silence for three federal government officials from Tijuana who died in a helicopter crash Nov. 11. They were Interior Minister Francisco Blake Mora and his aides José Alfredo García Medina and Diana Hayton. The first dignitary he named as being in attendance was Gov. Osuna Millán.
The debt renegotiation: Bustamante said the city had the largest debt of any municipality in the country under very adverse circumstances. "We had to put the city's finances in order in order to provide order in the municipal government." He said that if the city government had not acted quickly, the city could have become insolvent. He said his government acted with transparency, with the council and the state legislature, to renegotiate the debt. He told council members and legislators who backed the renegotiation: "Your vote was for Tijuana." The debt was renegotiated into two packages, of 725 million pesos and 1.835 billion pesos. Bustamante said the interest rate was lowered from 10% to 6.3% and said it had a ceiling of 7%. He said the renegotiation is saving Tijuana 8.9 million pesos a month, which can go toward badly needed operations. Others have complained that the fees the city paid to former federal Finance Minister Pedro Aspe's company were too high and that although has lowered its debt payments in the short term, future administrations may have to pay more than perhaps they should. Still, Bustamante said Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's had both given Tijuana AAA ratings. He also said the magazine Alcaldes de Mexico (Mayors of Mexico) had given Tijuana its best government practices award for 2011. He said new measures had brought about a 55% increase in real-estate tax collection. He had high praise for the city finance chief, Rufo Ibarra, and also for Enriquez de la Fuente, calling her "clean, honest and efficient." He said the city is working at further professionalizing its police force. He had high praise for members of the military battling organized crime in the city.
He said Tecate and Tijuana's agreement to delineate their border after decades of controversy has opened the door for both cities to receive more grant funding. He said a municipal grouping of Tijuana, Tecate and Rosarito Beach may provide benefits to the region.
He had kind words for Gov. Brown, San Diego Mayor Sanders and border czar Alan Bersin.
At the Municipal Auditorium on Nov. 26, Castro Trenti invoked a minute of silence to honor Martha Torres, who long worked in the ranks of the PRI.
He noted that he grew up in Colonia Independencia, and that his mother did work in homes across the border to help pay for his siblings' upbringing.
Identical stories about the rally written by Castro Trenti's staff appeared in various Baja California publications. It was humorous to see the various publications all refer to the state head of the PRI, René Mendívil, as René Medieval (and, some, indeed, call the PRI medieval). Mendivil, whose picture is at right, was present at the event. Story mentioning René Medieval, Tijuana Noticias. Same story, Tijuana Informativo. The same story also ran in Frontera (PDF).