Sonora Leader: Media Hyping violence
The Arizona Republic
by Matthew Benson
Media coverage has sensationalized the drug violence that has gripped parts of Mexico, new Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés Elías said Monday as he pledged that his state remains safe to tourists.
Sonora is home to Puerto Peñasco, commonly known as Rocky Point. Tourism at the popular, beachside resort town has slipped as many Arizonans have stayed away amid accounts of warring drug cartels south of the border. Cartel-related violence resulted in more than 6,000 deaths in Mexico last year alone, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
But Padres said the bulk of the violence has occurred elsewhere in Mexico, and called Sonora his country’s safest border state.
“We have a lot safer state than a lot of the cities here in the United States,” Padres insisted during a meeting with The Arizona Republic. “Nobody that visits us is in harm’s way.”
Padrés’ visit to Phoenix was his first since being elected in July. He came to the Valley to meet area business leaders as part of a special meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.
Regional economic development in the border states of Arizona and Sonora will continue to be a key priority, Padres said. He noted his state’s natural resources and its development of a deepwater seaport that could speed delivery of products to consumers in Arizona.
Collaboration between public officials on each side of the border will be crucial to fostering that business investment. Padrés said he had been welcomed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer “with open arms” and, last month, she traveled to Hermosillo for Padrés’ inauguration. The two met again Monday for lunch at the Ritz Carlton in central Phoenix.
“I can tell you it’s a very good relationship,” Padrés said. “She’s been a very good neighbor and a very good friend.”
Brewer spokesman Paul Senseman seconded Padrés’ assessment, and pointed to ongoing work to expand the Mariposa Land Port of Entry at Nogales as evidence of the effort to foster trade. The land port, the nation’s third-busiest border station, is to be enlarged over the next 3 1/2 years, with most of the project bankrolled by the U.S. government.
Thorny issues remain, however. Padrés suggested that some immigration-related laws passed in Arizona “are hard for my people.” When pressed, he pointed to the state’s 2007 employer-sanctions law, which allows law enforcement to target employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.
“That hit a lot of people,” said Padrés, who served as a lawmaker at both a state and federal level in Mexico prior to becoming governor. “I’m not going to be in agreement with bills that are going to hurt the people that are living here (in Arizona) from Mexico.”
Padrés and Brewer also appear to be at odds regarding the supply of assault weapons in the United States, some of which have found their way into the fight between drug cartels and the Mexican government. U.S. officials say roughly 90 percent of the guns traced in Mexico originated in the U.S, but the figure is widely disputed because most guns confiscated in Mexico cannot be traced.
“We don’t make them,” Padrés said. “We don’t have them. It’s weapons that are coming from the United States.”
But in May, Brewer told attendees at a National Rifle Association conference in Phoenix that she opposed additional federal regulations on the sale of guns, including the return of a U.S. ban on semiautomatic, military-style rifles. That ban, which expired in 2004,has been advocated by Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
“New gun laws are not the answer to increasing gun violence in Mexico,” Brewer told NRA members this spring. “The answer is to secure the border and leave the freedoms of the United States citizen alone. Don’t mess with the Second Amendment.”