CIUDAD VICTORIA – Starting Monday, surveillance on Tamaulipas highways was boosted by a new State Police unit, the Policía Estatal de Auxilio Carretero, or the Highway Assistance State Police.

Tamaulipas Governor Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca said this new force will have, in its first stage, 140 officers and 70 fully equipped units.

García Cabeza de Vaca said the Tamaulipas government has invested approximately $4 million for the program, mainly for the purchase of vehicles, equipment and uniforms.

“Our state had never been given such a large number of vehicles to improve the safety of the roads,” Garcia Cabeza de Vaca said, at the kick-off event for the new police force in the Ciudad Victoria state fairgrounds.

García Cabeza de Vaca said the new security corporation will reinforce surveillance in each route that passes through and connects Tamaulipas with other states.

He said it will provide road assistance to motorists, offering them additional support in the event of an accident.

The new image of the uniforms and vehicles of the Public Safety State Office were also unveiled during the ceremony.

García Cabeza de Vaca said he wanted to make it clear to the people of Tamaulipas and the officers of the department that his administration will not tolerate any abuse or acts of corruption.

“To the officers of this new Highway Assistance State Police I ask: conduct yourselves with honesty, rectitude and professionalism. We will not tolerate any abuse or act of corruption. Let me be very clear: we’re here to serve our people. I know that with their actions (the policemen) will gain the confidence of the people,” García Cabeza de Vaca said.

McAllen EDC viewpoint

McAllen EDC Vice President Ralph Garcia gave a presentation to the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Leadership Academy.

There was an in-depth discussion about security in Reynosa, Tamaulipas’ largest city, at a recent event hosted by McAllen Economic Development Corporation. MEDC President Keith Patridge and Vice President Ralph Garcia were asked how safe it was for maquila managers and engineers that live in the McAllen area to work in Reynosa. MEDC was hosting the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2017 Leadership Academy.

“Everyone is afraid to go to Reynosa. So far this year in Chicago there were 433 shot and killed, 2070 shot and wounded, total shot, 2503. Total homicides of 470. Now, are you afraid to go to Chicago?” asked Patridge.

Patridge recalled the time then-Governor Rick Perry and Fox News personality Sean Hannity were dressed in flak jackets on a Border Patrol boat on the Rio Grande at Anzalduas Park in Mission. “All of a sudden a party boat goes by,” Patridge chuckled.

Garcia gave a power point presentation on MEDC’s work in Reynosa, with another MEDC Vice President, Janie Cavazos, explaining the group’s work in McAllen.

“I am all over the city (Reynosa) and I have yet to have a problem. I have been doing it 16 years,” Garcia said.

Garcia said because of TV programs and telenovelas, the perception is that the border region is a war zone, even among some people living in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Unfortunately, the perception is based on what they see on TV. They see Border Wars, cartel movies like Narco, they watch novelas like Queen of the South. The perception is a war is happening just across the border from us. You have more than 3,000 managers that cross every day. They are not escorted. They are not riding in armoured vehicles,” Garcia said.

“The reality is this: Reynosa is about a million people plus. You have crime, you have organized crime and you have the trafficking of not only drugs but people. Money going south, weapons going south, that is the reality of what exists. That being said, we have more than 200 plants operating every day with more than 130,000 people working in those operations. Very seldom do you hear of any of the plants having any issues in terms of people being picked up or kidnapped, people being extorted, raw material being stolen or finished product theft taking place. It is very rare.”

Garcia said when there is theft in maquilas it is often done by someone working in the factory.

“But, as far as the cartels bothering operations like that, it is not common, it is not heard of. I tell people that because a lot of times, seeing is believing. If you have an opportunity to visit Reynosa you get a better feel for it. We take companies from all over the world on a weekly, monthly basis and when they visit I think one of the biggest things they come back with is, where are all the guys with the guns? Sometimes I think it is important to put it in perspective.”

Garcia was born and raised in McAllen. He pointed out that as a kid he and his family would go to Reynosa.

“I thought of Reynosa as a little town. That was the perception you always had. You get to high school and it became the party town. That is where we could go and drink. Then, in 2009 and 2010 the economy started tanking in the U.S. As that took place, Reynosa actually grew. It was able to maintain stability. Then we had the roll out of the violence. It took its toll in terms of attracting investment because even though I can stand here and tell you the companies are working, the perception was it is a war zone. As a company, I am not going to invest there.”

Garcia said things are not much different in the interior of Mexico, but that does not make the news in the U.S.

“The interior markets in Mexico continued to grow. You look at Queretaro, the Bahia, tremendous growth. Honest truth: same organized crime, same situations. Sometimes the perception is when you hear about a story in Reynosa, it sells really well. It might have been something that lasted five minutes. But, it made national news.”