EL PASO – México is going through a structural change to strengthen government and law enforcement in order to combat crime more effectively and weaken the drug cartels, according to a Mexican government official.
México has made great strides recruiting police officers and government workers that are not corrupt to help fight the drug cartels, said Alejandro Poire, a spokesman for the Mexican National Security Council and Cabinet.
Speaking to leaders of the public and private sectors of México and the United States gathered August 15 and 16 at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) for the Eighth Annual Border Security Conference, Poire said Mexican courts are now prosecuting criminals more swiftly.
“México made a massive Congressional reform in 2007,” he said. “In 2006 México only had 6,500 federal police officers and today there are more than 35,000 federal police officers,” Poire said. “The biggest problem with México is that cities like Juárez have grown, but there are not enough economic resources to keep up with the growth of the population.”
The U.S. side of the 2000-mile long U.S.-México border is more secure now than it has been at any time in the past 30 years according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection region commissioner Alan Bersin.
“The border is the most secure from contraband in 30 years,” Bersin told the gathering. “Crime is down from San Diego to Brownsville and El Paso and Phoenix, Arizona are among the safest cities in America.”
Bersin said that “Operation Hold the Line” started in Texas in 1993 still is effective in stopping illegal immigrants from crossing the border, forcing the smugglers and immigrants to cross further west into Arizona. “There are 21,000 border patrol agents and 60,000 Customs and Border Protection employees that are dedicated to protect the border,” he said.
The United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk said it is plain to see just how important trade with México is in Texas. “In 2009, the El Paso metropolitan region exported approximately $5.8 billion to México, which comes to over $16 million daily.”
Those facts and figures represent real benefits for Texas families, he said. Trade with México supports good-paying jobs here at home, he said. One of every four manufacturing jobs in Texas depends on manufacturing exports, he said. “You can simply watch the bridges over the Rio Grande, where steady caravans of cars, trucks, buses, and motorbikes carry some of the nearly 1 million people who cross the border in both directions every day.”
U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) and UTEP President Dr. Diana Natalicio hosted the conference on the UTEP campus. The conference couldn’t have been assembled at a better location than a border community according to Dr. Richard Pineda, Associate Professor of Communication at UTEP. “I think there is something important about having a conferences about the border on the border, because it gives people a perspective, you have some insight. I think it’s harder to get it if you had a conference in México City or in Washington, D.C.”