McALLEN, RGV – The tourism department in the Governor’s Office has made a formal complaint to the U.K. Daily Mail over its hyperbolic story that McAllen, Texas, is located next to a war zone.
Keith Patridge, president of the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, explained how the complaint came about.
“Nancy Millar and Steve Ahlenius at the McAllen Chamber have been working with us and the City of McAllen ever since the story came out. Nancy contacted the Governor’s Office’s director of tourism and he promptly contacted the Texas public relations firm in the U.K. They contacted the newspaper and voiced their strong objection to the inaccuracies, exaggerations and flat out falsehoods contained in the story.”
Patridge explained why Millar contacted the State of Texas’ director of tourism. “If what was in the Daily Mail story was true you would not hear a word from us. We would not like it but we would not say anything. But, now, when a story is put out that is literally focused on damaging us, we are going to respond. We have to.”
Patridge said the Daily Mail story, written for its online edition by reporter Alasdair Baverstock, could do untold damage to MEDC’s efforts to lure major manufacturing companies to the region. He listed some of the complaints he has received about the story:
• Graphic photos of gunmen lying dead in the streets of Reynosa are from four and five years ago.
• Under a photo of zoo owner Alfredo Moreno Ricart with one of his tigers was a tagline that said drug cartel bosses buy wild animals for pets.
• Story incorrectly claims cartels in Reynosa burn buses in the hope of killing the children of rival cartels.
• Gunshots heard every night in Hidalgo. In fact, the shots are coming from a rifle range.
• Article posted a portrait of a Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy and misidentified him as Sheriff Eddie Guerra.
• Reporter did not contact McAllen Mayor Jim Darling or anyone at the City of McAllen for comment.
• Reynosa Mayor José ‘Pepe’ Elias Leal said he was not contacted for comment.
Click here to read the Daily Mail story.
“This article has really been damaging to our community. We will never, ever, criticize media for covering news – as long as it is accurate. But, this article has a number of inaccuracies, it has a number of falsehoods, of untruths, of exaggerations, and they were using pictures that were from three, four or five years ago,” Patridge said. “Whenever we have a situation where we get what I consider is a really sloppy piece of journalism we will call them out. Why? Because this impacts the livelihood and the future of our community and what they have done is impinge upon the reputation of our community.”
Patridge said MEDC has invited Daily Mail Editor Paul Michael Dacre to visit McAllen and Reynosa to see for himself how dangerous the two cities are to live and work. He pointed that approximately 2,000 maquila plant managers live in the McAllen area and go to work in Reynosa every day.
“We would like for the Daily Mail to send a quote, unquote, ‘journalist’ to our area. They can write what they want to write but we want them to see it with their own eyes and really talk to people to understand what is going on, rather than cut and paste pieces of articles from several years ago. Do we have issues? Absolutely. Does every community in the world have issues? Absolutely. We are not going to sugar coat that but what we are going to do is protect our community from this unwarranted and unethical activity.”
Patridge made his comments about the Daily Mail article immediately following an MEDC board meeting. At the meeting, INDEX Reynosa board member Mike Myers said he feels very safe living in McAllen and traveling to work most days in Reynosa. INDEX is the trade association for the maquiladora industry.
“I live in McAllen but my business is in Reynosa. I feel very comfortable there. The federales are doing a better job. Every day it gets better over there,” Myers said. “I know everybody is talking about security but most of the talking is from people who never cross. They are people that aren’t going to Reynosa, that aren’t going to Mexico. They are talking about what they read, what they remember or what they have heard and they don’t have any true experiences. Very seldom are they talking with first-hand experience.”
Myers said it might be time for McAllen EDC to hire a PR firm to “shed more light on the improvements that are being made to security.”
Myers added: “If you want to look for trouble you can find it over there, just like you can in San Antonio, just like in Dallas. The federal government has taken over and they have done a good job in controlling the city. I don’t know how you get the word out but I drive over there, I wash my car over there, I take people for lunch, I go from park to park to park, we bring employees in and out with the bus system. I don’t know how you get the word out but it will help the whole area to let people know the truth.”
Immediately after the Daily Mail story ran, MEDC took a group of Rio Grande Valley-based reporters to Reynosa. There were no incidents on the trip and Valley and Reynosa residents interviewed by the reporters in Reynosa said they feel safe.
Ironically, just a few days after the Daily Mail story ran, a consulate-general from the United Kingdom, Karen Bell, visited the Valley on a trade mission. Bell told economic development leaders that the U.K. wants to invest in the region, on both sides of the border. Mexico’s consul in McAllen, Guillermo Ordorica Robles, invited Bell to visit Reynosa.