Arizona and Sonora need each other for economic growth

By Opinion/Editorial
January 6, 2011

The neighboring states of Arizona and Sonora need each other, but their long, strong relationship was badly damaged over the past year. It’s vital that healing and repair be political and economic priorities for 2011.

As the Star’s Brady McCombs and Tim Steller reported on Sunday, SB 1070, drug-war violence in Mexico, over-the-top political rhetoric – especially from Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer – and the economic recession caused strains between the two states last year.

Political relationships unraveled and tourism, shopping and family-visit trips between Arizona and Sonora fell off. But, reassuringly, the reporters found reasons for optimism in coming months.

On Monday, Sonora Gov. Guillermo Padrés Elias attended Gov. Jan Brewer’s inauguration in Phoenix. Last year, in protest over SB 1070, Padrés canceled the Arizona-Mexico Commission meeting for the first time since its founding in 1959. The Border Governors Conference planned for Arizona also was scrapped.

Brewer’s overblown comments last year – she claimed headless bodies were found in the Arizona desert and labeled most illegal migrants as drug smugglers – and the enactment of Arizona’s controversial new anti-immigration law deeply damaged political connections between the two states.

But business relationships have remained strong, according to a Sunday story by Steller and Mariana Alvarado. Commercial-vehicle crossings in Nogales rose by about 18 percent from 2005 to 2010, they reported.

Another reason for optimism is that Caballeros del Sol, a nonprofit organization of Tucson-area businessmen, has organized a March trip to Hermosillo and Ciudad Obregón, Sonora, to promote cross-border relations. The group will meet with businesspeople and Obregón’s mayor.

“In the long term, we’re going to have more rather than less interactions between the United States and Mexico,” said Tucson businessman Mike Hammond, president of PICOR Commercial Real Estate Services.

The new president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, Larry Lucero, a Tucson Electric Power executive, cited the group’s decades-long history of collaboration as a cause to be hopeful.

“The strength of this organization has developed because of the more than 50 years that this organization has existed,” he said. “Those long-lasting relationships transcend politics and transcend changes in governorships.”
Both SB 1070 and drug violence in Mexico remain as roadblocks to healing and building better regional connections.

“For Mexicans, there is stigma about Arizona because of SB 1070,” said Andrew Selee, director at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute in Washington, D.C., told the Star. “But for Arizonans, there is stigma about Mexico right now because of the violence. You have forces in both directions, pulling people apart.”

The problem of violence isn’t one that any single entity can resolve quickly. Law enforcement groups on both sides of the border must work cooperatively and Mexico’s federal government must continue to press its attack on the drug cartels causing most of the bloodshed.

Because of the violence, “we’re in Mexico now more than we’ve ever been before. There’s more trust,” U.S. Attorney for Arizona Dennis Burke told the Star.

Political and economic issues also must be priorities in 2011, and giant improvements are possible. It’ll be up to Brewer and Padrés to build a working cooperative relationship between the states.

As Selee said, in cases such as this, “personal relationships matter.”

Arizona Daily Star

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