BROWNSVILLE, Texas – It’s an ongoing issue in the border cities of Matamoros and Reynosa.
It’s an issue that rears its head repeatedly over the course of time.
Local police forces are out-gunned by organized crime and thus largely ineffective against large-scale racketeering.
Enter national strategies such as “Coordinación Tamaulipas” (Coordinated Tamaulipas) in which local police forces are effectively disbanded, ceding control to mostly federal entities such as the Army, the Marines, and the Federal Police, along with contingents of State Police.
The strategy has met with mixed results. The movement of cartels is checked by sacrificing the focus on lesser crime such as burglary, mugging, shoplifting and auto theft.
“What we need is a local police force under the control of the municipality,” commented Matamoros Mayor Mario Lopez Hernandez at the recent Crossroads Festival at the Camille Playhouse in Brownsville, during a panel discussion on issues facing the sister cities of Matamoros and Brownsville.
“Citizens are reporting an increase in the kinds of crimes that local police would normally address,” continued Lopez.
The Matamoros chief executive went on to describe the importance of the city’s relationship with Brownsville. “SpaceX should be moved a little closer to our side,” he joked, stating that the best viewpoint for future launches at the complex will be from Bagdad Beach in Matamoros.
In fact, the city is even investing in creating an area for spectators in Matamoros.
The Matamoros mayor went on to say that the city is financially strained by the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocol, which requires asylum applicants to wait in Mexico to be processed and assigned a court date.
“We know that migrants are in an unfortunate position and we are happy to help. But we need some help ourselves, with financial and material resources,” the mayor said, pleading for more aid from the federal government of his country.
In an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Lopez pointed to three priorities of his government: a need to combat poverty and its consequences; improvements in the city’s infrastructure and strong investments in public education.
“What the citizens of Matamoros expect is that we seriously address all three of these priorities,” Lopez said.
In keeping with the bi-national spirit of the Crossroads Festival, the mayor emphasized that strong “regional cooperation” was an essential component of Matamoros’ future viability and sustainability.
The Crossroads Festival was the idea of Brownsville Mayor Trey Mendez. The Rio Grande Guardian interviewed Mendez after his remarks at the festival. He was asked about living on an international border.
“I had the opportunity to have this same sort of conversation at the border mayors’ conference. I said, living on a border is an entirely different thing. We are tied to our neighbor, whether that is the Mexican border or the Canadian border. Our economy and our citizens’ lives are tied to that border, to life on that border,” Mendez said.
As such, it is important for Brownsville to retain good relations with its neighbor, Matamoros, Mendez said.
“It is also important to realize that when you live on the border it is a binational place, a bicultural place. Its identity is tied to that. I think it is something to celebrate. We are unique. It is something that benefits us,” Mendez explained.
“However, a lot of people in Washington, and other parts of the country do not really know what that is like. It is incumbent upon us as border mayors and people that live on the border to tell the story of the border every chance we get.”
Matamoros Mayor Lopez was asked how he sees the future.
“Very good. We’re working to grow, but grow as a region, with the City of Brownsville. In that sense, to strengthen the economy,” Lopez said.
“We’re working to decrease the marginalization of those in poverty. We’re working on basic and social infrastructure. We’re also working on the educational system. Those are the challenges we have to provide more support for our families in Matamoros.”
Editor’s Note: Rio Grande Guardian presenter Mario Muñoz assisted on this news story from Brownsville, Texas.