REYNOSA, Tamaulipas – The secretary of economic development for the state of Tamaulipas has thanked the federal governments of the United States and Mexico for helping thwart cartel activity in his state.

Carlos Talancón said the Mexican government has provided 30 armored trucks to regain law and order in Rio Bravo. He said the U.S. government has, through Customs & Border Protection, been training the reformed Tamaulipas state police.

Carlos Talancon

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian at the Foro Internacional INDEX Reynosa 2017 conference held at Centro Cultural in Reynosa, Talancón said Tamaulipas is making Reynosa and Rio Bravo safe again.

“We are working on it. The last two weeks have been very tough for everybody living in Reynosa,” Talancón acknowledged. “We are terminating the different leaders. All their soldiers do not have money for gas. They have arms and they are stealing the cars to keep moving. We have a lot of military coming in. About 30 trucks have arrived in Rio Bravo. We are terminating the last cucarachos (cockroaches). They do not have funds, they do not have money, they are just looking around to see where they can get money because they are on their last legs. We are terminating them. There are more good guys than bad guys. This has been happening in the last two weeks.”

Asked how the Mexican government is helping, Talancón said: “We had a big group of military arrive in Rio Bravo yesterday. They are helping.”

Asked how the U.S. government is helping, Talancón said; “CBP has been training our new state police force in Texas. The U.S. consuls of Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros have visited us in Ciudad Victoria. They have given us equipment, trained dogs. We have been working together with them. They are now training our trainees in Texas. We have been working for the last nine months with them.”

Ironically, in the first nine months of 2017, manufacturing job growth in Tamaulipas and in particular Reynosa has been at an all-time high.

“For the first nine months of this year we have created 36,000 new jobs in Tamaulipas, with 18,000 in Reynosa alone. This figure is all the more impressive because at the start of the year, companies were putting their investment plans on hold with President Trump coming into office,” Talancón said.

“Last year was our second-best year. In all Tamaulipas we created 15,000 jobs. There is so much potential. It is all about working all sectors.”

Violence in Reynosa was the big talking point at Foro Internacional, INDEX Reynosa’s big economic development conference of the year. INDEX is the biggest trade association for the maquiladora industry in Mexico. Attendance at FORO 2017 was well down on previous years, with many likely attendees and some speakers unwilling to travel to Reynosa.

“We do have less people here this year and I do not blame people for not coming,” said INDEX Reynosa President Enrique Castro Septien. “People are not moving around the city because of a lack of security, because of recommendations from the corporations. In normal times it was easier to move around, right now it is more difficult.”

Asked if maquila companies could start leaving Reynosa because of the violence or the threat of violence, Castro said: “As I said to you last week, watch out because markets are very smart. I heard yesterday that InterJet is leaving at the end of the month. They are stopping their flights into Reynosa. They say because of a lack of equipment. I don’t know. I think we will see a reaction based on reality, not just wishes.”

Castro said he has spoken about the security of maquila plants and their staff to Tamaulipas Governor Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca. He said INDEX at the national level has spoken with the Mexican government.

“I do not have to tell them what to do. They know what to do. They are acting. They are doing their best. But we really have to get this over with. I cannot talk specifically about other maquilas but I know some are changing their strategies. A lot of people are not staying. Their kids, their way of living. You need to be in a safe place. You are even hearing it in McAllen. Sales taxes are down. I hope for the best for everybody and I hope it (the violence) is over soon.”

Castro said he liked a point Reynosa Mayor Maki Ortiz Domínguez made in her remarks at the Foro conference. “She said, we are a really good place for manufacturing. La frontera, the border, is the place to be. I hope a lot of people will say, this (the violence) is enough. But, it is not for us to say this is enough. If we do not see the conditions to keep operating it is over, game over.”