Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From The Embassy of the United States Mexico City, Mexico: United States and Mexico Sign Agreement on Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council

Mexico City, May 21, 2013 – The United States and Mexico agreed to create the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council (MUSEIC). The Council was formalized through the signing of the framework agreement between the U.S. State Department and Mexico’s National Institute of Entrepreneurship. 
During President Obama’s visit to Mexico earlier this month, he expressed, along with President Peña Nieto, his commitment to developing an even closer economic and trade relationship between both countries. The Presidents announced the High Level Economic Dialogue, in which officials from both governments will work together to promote competitiveness and connectivity, boost economic growth and innovation, and join forces for global leadership.
On May 8, the preliminary stages to create a binational entrepreneurship and innovation council were developed. This Council will provide a forum to coordinate and collaborate on strategies that trigger the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises. 
This Council will integrate a working plan that includes specific programs and activities to incorporate Mexico into the Global Entrepreneurship Program, a U.S. initiative that seeks to catapult entrepreneurs in emerging economies through tools and links to its programs.
MUSEIC was formally launched on May 20th through the signing of the framework agreement by Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez and the chairman of Mexico’s National Institute of Entrepreneurship, Enrique Jacob Rocha, with Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo serving as witness of honor. Representatives from the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs and the National Council for Science and Technology were also present at the signing.
Assistant Secretary of State Jose Fernandez said, “I have been impressed with the commitment of the Mexican government to entrepreneurship both with the words last week by President Peña Nieto and by the formation of the new INADEM led by Enrique Jacob Rocha.  We are confident this partnership will create the environment where both our countries will have the opportunity to work together for economic prosperity.”
Enrique Jacob Rocha, chairman of the National Institute of Entrepreneurship stated, “This Council represents the ideal platform to boost our entrepreneurship ecosystem, not only domestically, but around the world, and it will allow us to fulfill one of the goals of this Institute: making our entrepreneurs more competitive alongside one of our key partners.”
U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affires ad interim Laura Dogu said, “Entrepreneurs are the drivers of innovation, of job creation and of sustained economic growth. This is why I am pleased that MUSEIC will strengthen regional competitiveness, which gives us a critical advantage above other regions in a global economy of innovation that is more competitive every day.”
The Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council will focus on:
  • A regulatory framework that will favor innovative entrepreneurship;
  • Promoting women-led entrepreneurship;
  • Participation and collaboration of the Latin American diaspora;
  • Promotion and integration of infrastructure to support entrepreneurs and micro, small, and medium enterprises;
  • Sharing expertise and best practices on development of regional innovation clusters;
  • Sharing expertise and best practices on supply chains; and
  • Sharing tools and best practices on financing and promotion of innovative, high-impact entrepreneurship.
The Council will be comprised of different participants of the entrepreneur ecosystem from Mexico and the United States, including government officials, academics, private sector representatives, non-government organizations and venture capital funds, among others.

From Bloomberg: Pena Nieto’s Mexico Energy Reform Faces Delay in PAN Shakeup

Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reform agenda that includes legislation to end the monopoly of state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos faces delays due to a shake-up in the former ruling party’s leadership.
Former President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, or PAN, yesterday ousted former Finance Minister Ernesto Cordero from the Senate party leadership. The decision erodes the political consensus parties have built in congress, complicating the economic reform agenda, according to IdeaGlobal and Javier Oliva, a political scientist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
“What may happen is that factions of the party would vote against part of an energy reform,” Oliva said in a telephone interview from Cuernavaca, outside Mexico City. “It may slow down the reform’s approval process.”
Pena Nieto has pledged to double the pace of economic growth by passing reforms to open up the state-owned oil company to private investment, boost tax revenue and spur competition in sectors like telecommunications. A multiparty accord, led by Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and PAN that has sped up passage of reforms in Congress and that recently resolved differences over vote buying allegations now faces a divided PAN in the Senate, where it’s the second-largest party.
Cordero, who will remain president of the Senate, confirmed yesterday that 24 of 37 PAN senators wrote a letter backing his leadership in the Senate.

Internal Division

The party’s internal divisions stem from differences over its role as an opposition presence after losing the presidency it held for 12 years in 2012, including how it should operate within the Pact for Mexico political accord to pass economic reforms.
Earlier this month the PAN resumed its activity within the pact after suspending it in April on accusations the PRI used government funds to buy votes ahead of July 7 local elections.
“The PAN can’t be a satellite of the PRI,” Cordero told reporters yesterday. “I’m worried that the PAN is losing its independence to the government.”
PAN President Gustavo Madero countered that Cordero has been acting without consulting party leadership, such as presenting a campaign finance bill a day after Madero had announced one.
Under Cordero’s leadership, PAN senators have pushed through changes to a telecommunications reform approved in April, allowing companies to gain temporary injunctions during trials. The senators also strengthened oversight of unions in a labor law passed in November.
“The outlook on reform has become somewhat more challenging and that in turn overflows into the investment decision process,” said Enrique Alvarez, the head of Latin America for fixed income at research company IdeaGlobal. “If there’s infighting, if there are more visible divisions and a sort of questionable desire to work in unison going forward, I think that’s going to complicate the investment” outlook.

From Reuters: Mexico's Banorte CEO optimistic on economic reforms, growth

MEXICO CITY | Tue May 21, 2013 6:15pm EDT
(Reuters) - The chief executive of Mexico's fourth-largest bank by assets, Grupo Financiero Banorte, is optimistic about expanding the bank's business this year despite of worries over a global economic slowdown.
Banorte expects to increase its lending by 15 percent this year, Chief Executive Alejandro Valenzuela told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit. That would be in line with last year's increase in lending.
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto hopes to push through major energy and fiscal legislation later this year that could help boost growth, part of a wider raft of economic measures.
Earlier this month the government unveiled a bill aimed at spurring lending in Latin America's No. 2 economy, where banks boast high capital levels but lend much less than their counterparts in other countries.
The reform effort will be positive for lending, but it is "more of a long-term vision," Valenzuela said, adding that wider economic growth is a more important factor.
"If Mexico's economy expands, then obviously the banks and financial sector will be able to lend a lot more," he said.
But given an economic slowdown and political fault lines that could disrupt Pena Nieto's reform agenda, Valenzuela remains cautious.
"Much of what might happen in Mexico in the next 12 to 18 months is going to depend on the effectiveness of these reforms," he said. "If they go well as we expect ... then obviously Mexico could grow at much better levels."
A wider economic slowdown could drag on Banorte's growth, Valenzuela said, although he said the bank is not yet revising growth expectations even though Mexico's annual economic growth slumped in early 2013 to its weakest in three years.
Valenzuela said he expects Mexican economic growth to pick up in the second half of the year. However, the bank is not currently considering any acquisitions or capital raises.
"I think we have to be cautious, we have to be careful. I have never seen so much uncertainty in my life," he said.
Still, Valenzuela brushed off concern about Mexico's three largest homebuilders, Geo (GEOB.MX), Homex (HOMEX.MX) and Urbi (URBI.MX), which are struggling under heavy debt loads. Geo and Urbi have said they are considering debt restructurings.
All Mexico's banks are facing write-downs on loans to the homebuilders, he said, noting this is a one-off issue that will not affect the bank's results.
"It can still be a good year, in spite of the homebuilders' issues."
(Editing by Simon Gardner and Dan Grebler)

Monday, May 20, 2013

FROM VOXXI: Reconsidering and understanding border relations

For those who live along the U.S.-Mexico border, especially in large cities, the relationship between the two countries is different than for those who live elsewhere in the U.S. It’s difficult for those outside this area to understand, because despite the line that legally separates the two countries, the people both north and south of it, are neighbors. They depend on each other for economic vibrancy, personal relationships and cultural attachment.

Border relations between U.S. and Mexico

In spite of the backlash against illegal immigration and the fear of out-of-control drug violence along the Mexican side of the border, border cities in the U.S. have a unique relationship with their neighbor to the south.
Recently, San Diego’s Mayor Bob Filner looked across the border to Tijuana as a new business partner. For him, as for most of the politicians in the San Diego area, it’s not about “us versus them.” It’s about all of us. Together.
According to a recent New York Times article, Filner has opened a satellite office in Tijuana. He also says he plans to place a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics to be hosted jointly with Tijuana. When either Filner or the Mayor of Tijuana, Carlos Bustamante, refer to the area, they speak of us—not of “us and them.”
The fact is that Tijuana has become a major economic force, and it is in both cities’ interest to come together. The politicians, however, are always the last ones to arrive at the party. Businesses and individuals have been taking advantage of this relationship for decades.
The same goes for El Paso, Texas—just across the border from Juarez. The drug violence in the Mexican city has been simmering, and—according to some reports—the murder rate has dropped 84 percent from last year. This was never a big problem in El Paso, which has been rated the safest city in the U.S. three years in a row by CQ Press’ City Crime Rankings.
El Paso and Juarez have a very tight relationship. Businesses on both sides of the border have always relied on the other side of the dividing line. People in Juarez might go to school in El Paso. Mothers from El Paso visit their daughters in Juarez. It is difficult for many people outside the area to understand how intertwined these the communities are.
The same goes for Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico as well as Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico. The people who live and work in these communities understand and live this reality, but policy and laws from Washington don’t. Instead of fighting over illegal immigration and building walls, the government should be building figurative bridges. In 2005 alone, over 40 million people entered the United States via the San Ysidro Port Entry at Tijuana. Legally.
What border cities and the people who live there are showing us, is that we can all live together in peace. And all of us can benefit from this. Despite what Washington lawmakers might think, the people on both sides of the border are neighbors, in the complete sense of the word. Politicians hundreds of miles away can build walls, bring in the National Guard and fly drones along the desert, but that’s not how it works along the border. For many generations, border cities have relied on each other for work, entertainment and prosperity. Families are often spread out on both sides.
There is an economic boom waiting to happen in these areas. The good news is that some business leaders and local politicians are finally doing something about it.

From Caixin Online: Mexico and China: A Promising Future

Mexico is in a great moment. Macroeconomic stability and a low debt rate are part of our strengths as one of the top fifteen economies in the world. We are an economy with a broad social perspective fully inserted into international trade, with an exchange of goods and services that amounts more than US$ 700 billion each year. We offer a secure and trustworthy environment for foreign investment. Our political institutions show increasing strength and vitality. Our country has vast amounts of natural resources, a solid industrial basis and increasing innovation, as well as a privileged geographic location.
This moment of our history embodies an important promise of well-being and development for the Mexican people through structural reforms, key for the country's development. We are a nation determined to transform itself and to grow.
From the beginning of his administration, President Enrique Pena Nieto committed to boosting a significant national effort aimed at achieving prosperity by means of fighting against poverty and inequality, by providing high-quality education across the country, and to consolidate Mexico as an actor with global responsibility determined to make positive contributions to its international environment. 
To reach national goals, during the administration of Pena Nieto foreign policy will contribute to Mexico's development as never before. At the same time, our country will consolidate its position as a solid advocate of international order and stability, as a supporter of global free trade, as a friendly and safe destination for foreign investment, and as a responsible and solidary state that promotes peace and human development.
We have decided to fortify Mexico's global presence by strengthening our international cooperation, promoting our values into the world and protecting Mexican interests abroad. These are the pillars of our foreign policy, and will serve as guidelines to identify priorities and concrete actions with each region and with each country.
Mexico is convinced that no other part of the world today matches the growth and dynamism of Asia and the Pacific. Their political weight and cultural influence are also unquestionable.
Mexico respects and admires China's universal inputs. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, both nations have forged strong bonds of friendship, solidarity and cooperation with enormous potential benefits for both countries.
This was recognized by Pena Nieto and President Xi Jinping during their meeting in April as part of the Boao Forum for Asia. They agreed then to raise the relationship to new levels of dialogue and cooperation that correspond to their enormous potential and the role Mexico and China play in the international arena. We share hopes in the international realm and challenges that I am sure we can solve if we bind our ties and exchange experiences.
Progressively but surely, Mexico will have greater presence in this area of rapid growth, global development and innovation that the Asia-Pacific region has become. Mexico and China have the opportunity to consolidate their existing ties in deepening exchanges, and making them more and more productive and mutually favorable. Political dialogue, trade, investment, education, science, technology, tourism and culture are priorities in a broad and expanding bilateral agenda.
The relationship between Mexico and China has a promising future. We are countries in motion and in constant process of transformation. With the relaunching of our ties, we will work to benefit from our coincidences and our complementarities. I am convinced that in this new stage, the people of both Mexico and China will benefit from a bilateral relationship sustained on a greater strategic and long-term vision.
The author is Mexico's secretary of foreign affairs

Friday, May 17, 2013

From The News (Mexico City): Head of Profeco Benítez dismissed

Osorio Chong: Institution’s prestige was put at risk


The News

MEXICO CITY – Humberto Benítez Treviño, the head of Mexico’s Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco), has been sacked over an incident in which the agency attempted to shut down a restaurant just hours after it refused to clear a table for Benítez Treviño’s daughter.

The Interior Secreteriat (Segob) announced on Wednesday that Benítez Treviño was removed as the head of the Profeco on the orders of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said the move sent a clear message to the nation’s public servants that “in addition to doing our jobs within the law, we are obligated to act ethically and with absolute professionalism.”

On April 26, Benítez Treviño’s daughter, Andrea Benítez, arrived at the Maximo Bistrot restaurant in Mexico City’s upmarket Roma district and demanded an outside table.

Restaurant owner Gabriela López said that when Andrea Benítez was asked to wait for the table, she said to waiters, “Do you know who my father is?” and threatened to call the Profeco. Two hours later, inspectors from the Profeco arrived at the restaurant and attempted to shut it down for supposed “anomalies” in its reservations system.

The incident went viral on social networks, with users dubbing Andrea Benítez “Lady Profeco.”

Three days later, an official investigation was launched. Osorio Chong said that the investigation found that Benítez Treviño had not ordered the Profeco to shut down the restaurant, but the incident had nevertheless put the institution’s reputation at risk.

From Hispanic Business: Crossing Fee Idea Gets Halted at the Border

The Obama administration's proposal to study fees for crossing the land borders of the United States met a dead end at a congressional committee today thanks to Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. 

The House Homeland Security Committee, by voice vote, approved Higgins' amendment blocking the Department of Homeland Security from studying such a border crossing fee, as Republicans and southern-border Democrats joined with Higgins to oppose the idea. 

"This is a huge victory for Western New York and other communities across the Northern Border that rely on the seamless flow of people and goods between the U.S. and Canada to support our economies," Higgins said. "The fee would have put an unfair burden on residents who frequently travel across the border and the cost of the proposed study would have taken resources, already stretched thin, away from significantly more critical security needs." 

The committee voted to attach Higgins amendment to a larger bill aimed at bolstering border security both at the northern and southern borders. 

And while that larger bill, if passed, would become likely become part of the larger congressional debate on immigration reform, the bipartisan support Higgins won for his amendment makes it more likely that his measure will survive as the bill moves forward. 

Collecting a fee on people crossing the U.S.-Canadian border and the U.S.-Mexican border would be counterproductive, other members of the committee said. 

"This kind of a fee would be so chilling on an economy that's trying to be on the rebound here," said Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich. 

From Bloomberg: Mexico Economy Expanded Less Than Expected as Industry Contracts

Mexico’s economy grew less than analysts expected in the first three months of the year as industrial production contracted on slower-than-forecast growth in the U.S.
Gross domestic product in the first quarter rose 0.8 percent from the year-ago period, the slowest pace since the end of 2009. The gain was less than the 1.1 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 18 economists.
Economists are cutting their forecasts for growth in 2013 after the U.S. expanded less than expected in the first quarter, reinforcing bets that Mexico’s central bank will cut borrowing costs for a second time this year. The economy is growing at its slowest pace since GDP contracted 6.2 percent in 2009 in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapse.
The central bank unexpectedly cut its key rate by half a point to 4 percent on March 8, the first reduction in more than three years. The key rate was kept unchanged in April as inflation climbed above the central bank’s target range.
Six-month interest-rate swaps, which reflect traders’ expectations of monetary policy, have fallen 11 basis points, or 0.11 percentage point, to 4.17 percent at 8:35 a.m. local time since central bank Governor Agustin Carstens signaled in an April 29 radio interview that the bank may consider more interest-rate cuts should inflation ease.

Rate Cut

Carstens later said that the bank doesn’t hold a bias in either direction on rates. The swaps show traders assign a 68 percent probability that Banco de Mexico will cut rates by October. As recently as May 3, traders saw a 32 percent chance.
The economy expanded 0.5 percent from the previous quarter, an annualized rate of 1.83 percent. The median estimate from seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 0.3 percent gain.
The peso weakened 0.4 percent to 12.3267 per dollar and has rallied 4.3 percent this year, the most among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. Yields on Mexican government notes due in 2024 fell one basis point to 4.61 percent.
Activity in industrial sectors such as mining, construction and industrial manufacturing contracted 1.5 percent in the January to March period from a year earlier.
Analysts have cut their forecasts for growth this year in each of the past three monthly surveys by the central bank, reducing the average estimate to 3.35 percent from 3.55 percent.
Annual inflation in Latin America’s second-biggest economy was 4.65 percent in April, above the nation’s 2 percent to 4 percent target range. Policy makers expect price increases to slow to below 4 percent in the second half of the year.
The U.S. economy, which buys about 80 percent of Mexico’s exports, grew an annualized 2.5 percent in the first quarter, less than the 3 percent forecast by analysts, and signs of weakness have persisted. Housing starts slumped to a five-month low in April and industrial production fell in the same month by the most since August.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Bloomberg: Border Delays Cost US 7.8 Billion as Fence is Focus

Delays at U.S.-Mexico border crossings cost the U.S. economy $7.8 billion in 2011, as improvements have lagged behind traffic growth and the political focus has been on securing the rest of the border.
The toll could balloon to $14.7 billion annually if the value of U.S.-Mexico truck trade reaches $463 billion by 2020 as predicted, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
As the U.S. Senate debates an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, the focus on fencing and securing remote stretches of the southern border has overshadowed long-needed improvements in technology, infrastructure and staffing at the land ports, said Matthew Hummer, a senior transportation analyst for Bloomberg Government.
“I think the most important issue here is stabilizing the two economies, and the ports of entry do that: They facilitate trade and create job opportunities,” said Hummer, the author of a Bloomberg Government report on the border. “If Mexicans have jobs in Mexico they are less likely to come to the U.S.”
Net Mexican migration dropped to zero from 2005 to 2010, amid strengthening economic conditions in Mexico, heightened border enforcement and other factors, according to a Pew Research Center study last year. The Mexican economy has grown at about twice the pace of the U.S. since the end of 2009.

Remote Areas

U.S. investment has remained focused on controlling the rest of the border between the crossings, including remote areas such as the Arizona desert. In the past decade, the number of Border Patrol agents more than doubled while the number of Customs and Border Protection officers, who staff the ports of entry, has remained at about the same level, according to a report by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and partner institutions.
Congressional funding for the areas between the ports has eclipsed that for the authorized entry points since 2007, even though the crossings have faced enhanced security requirements, increasing trade and evidence that drugs and dangerous individuals are more likely to cross there, according to the Mexico Institute report.
That focus continues in the current immigration debate in the Senate. The plan crafted by the so-called Gang of Eight bipartisan senators, which is being considered by the Judiciary Committee today, aims to secure Republican support by tying immigrants’ path to citizenship to the ability of the U.S. Border Patrol to stop 90 percent of illegal traffic across the southern border between the official ports of entry. There is no similar metric for the efficiency or security of the land ports.

‘Less Attention’

“The way the border is currently run is costing the U.S. a lot in terms of jobs and the economy,” said Christopher Wilson, an associate with the Mexico Institute and co-author of his group’s report on border trade. “In the context of the current immigration debate, we are very focused on what is going on between the ports of entry while this major issue, which is about security but also about jobs and the economy, is getting a lot less attention.”
Focusing politically on the rest of the border is easier than facing the challenges of running effective ports of entry, said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group critical of increased immigration. While the land ports probably do need more investment in infrastructure, there also should be much more stringent security, including entry and exit checks to catch those who overstay legal visits, he said.
“It seems to some extent we put too much emphasis on the ease of movement across the border,” Camarota said. “The border is not simply an obstacle to be overcome by businesses and travelers. It is the part where our country begins, and it is vitally important for security and immigration control.”

Modernizing Ports

Modernizing land ports of entry, which average more than 40 years old and were built before the increased security requirements implemented after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, would cost $6 billion according to a 2011 Customs and Border Protection report. About half of that cost would be for the southern border, according to the Bloomberg Government analysis.
The Senate bill includes funding for 3,500 additional Customs officers and earmarks $6.5 billion for border security. With the bill’s metrics tied to security elsewhere on the border, though, that’s where most of the money will probably go, Hummer said.
“Achieving the security metrics in the Gang of Eight bill will likely divert funds away from land ports of entry,” Hummer said.

Truck Crossing

More than 5.1 million trucks crossed the border at the six largest commercial ports of entry in 2012, up from about 2.9 million in 1995 and expected to swell to more than 7.3 million by 2020, according to the Bloomberg Government analysis. Over the last decade, the inflation-adjusted value of goods transported by truck through the southern border grew from $205 billion to $322 billion, Hummer said.
The average wait for commercial vehicles at the southern border is just over an hour and much longer at peak times of day, Hummer said. His analysis included additional costs of fuel and driver wages as well as lost business opportunities.
Five industries that account for 66 percent of trade value between the countries -- electrical machinery, computer devices, vehicles, plastics and precision health instruments --shouldered most of the costs of the border delays.
The delays could increase the costs of consumer electronics and complicate supply chains for automakers, including Honda, Nissan, Mazda and Audi, which have announced increased production in Mexico, according to the report. Automakers often ship parts across the southern border several times during manufacturing, causing costs to add up.

Economic Ties

The value of the economic ties between the U.S. and Mexico has been lost in the immigration debate amid calls by some members of Congress to fence the entire length of the nearly 2,000-mile border, said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration group based in Washington. The council’s Immigration Policy Center publisheda paper last week on the importance of trade between the countries called “Lost in the Shadow of the Fence.”
“We talk about fences, we talk about all kinds of security measures and almost never is there a discussion of how do you improve the incredibly valuable crossings in terms of trade and people that happen at the border,” Johnson said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda J. Crawford in Phoenix at

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day and Feliz Dia de las Madres 2013

We would like to wish all the mothers  a wonderful  Feliz Dia de las Madres and a Happy Mother's Day.

Below is an interesting Yuma Sun article about how Mother's Day comes two times a year along the US/Mexican border.

Mother's Day comes around twice along the border

No matter that their mother passed away 20 years ago, Frances Murrietta and her siblings gather at her graveside in San Luis Rio Colorado, Son., every Mother's Day to honor her.

For them, Yolanda Sanchez de Valdez is alive in spirit and memory, if not in body.

“We sing to her, we bring her flowers,” said Murrietta.

Murrietta, the manager of the Somerton Library, planned to go to the cemetery across the border at the end of work Friday, since Mother's Day always falls on May 10 in Mexico, where her mother had lived.

But then Murrietta and her siblings and their families will gather again on Sunday for a potluck meal where they'll observe Mother's Day on the U.S. calendar.

In a border region where two nations' cultures and traditions mesh and mingle, Yuma-area residents whose roots go back to Mexico may opt for observing the holiday in Mexican custom or waiting for Sunday, or marking both days in a hybrid celebration of motherhood in keeping with the influences of both countries.

Visiting the grave of a departed mother on Mother's Day is common in Mexico. And while they live in United States, Murrietta says she and her siblings follow the same practice to honor their mother for instilling in them values they in turn have taught their own children.

“Though she's not near us, it's important to share the lessons that she taught us with our own children. Her foundations were so strong and unique. She continues to live for us in our hearts.”

In San Luis, Ariz., — where many residents are immigrants of Mexico or their children or grandchildren — “95 percent” of families will observe's Mexico's Mother's Day date, says Laura Sanchez, owner of Pro Evento, a party supply and venue provider.

A tradition in either country's celebration is to give flowers, and based on prior years' experience, Sanchez was expected to fill between 150 to 200 orders for floral arrangements in the days leading up to Friday.

While the father may be perceived as the stereotypical dominant figure in a Mexican or Latino family, said Sanchez, it is the mother who is the “pillar” for the children.

Father Javier Perez of Immaculate Conception Church agreed with Sanchez's analogy.

“There is no other love greater than a mother's,” said Perez, adding that the Mother's Day celebration carries huge symbolism in Mexico and in U.S. border communities.

Special Mother's Day masses will be offered Sunday at Immaculate Conception Church and the parishes of Immaculate Heart of Mary in Somerton and San Judas Tadeo on San Luis, Ariz., but the services will include a tradition from Mexico as “Las Mañanitas”.

Mañanitas are songs sung on birthdays and other holidays in Mexico, but families may also hire musicians to sing them as early morning serenades to wake up the mothers on Mother's Day.

Los Rezecos, a Yuma-based band that performs songs in a variety of Mexican musical genres, has been making the rounds among homes in Yuma and Somerton to sing Mother's Day mañanitas in each of the past 10 years.

For this year's celebration, the band planned to start at around 10 p.m. Thursday in Yuma, sing a set of three songs to the mothers of 20 to 25 households, then move on to Somerton, where it would visit a similar number of homes, Los Rezecos member Argel Garcia said. He figured that band would finish its rounds by about 5 or 6 Friday morning. 

The youngest members of the family were getting an opportunity of their own at Yuma County libraries to honor their mothers.

At the county library branch in San Luis, children were making tissue paper floral arrangements for their moms in a craft session, while in the Somerton library, they were making greeting cards.

“This is a good way to teach the children how to be creative using their own words and their own talents,” said Murrietta.

And the library sessions happened soon enough for the kids to finish their gifts in time for either Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

From Commercial Carriers Journal: Cross-border trucking pilot program heads back to court

Though a federal court ruled just three weeks ago in favor of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico, a different panel of judges heard separate oral arguments May 6 against both the cross-border program and the National Registry of Medical Examiners implemented last year by FMCSA.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association argued in the March 15 court date — the ruling of which issued April 19 — that the participant carriers and drivers in the cross-border program are held to a lower standard than American drivers as far as safety and regulations. The court rejected the arguments.
The Registry of Medical Examiners will begin requiring interstate CDL holders to receive medical certification and physicals from examiners certified by FMCSA and listed in the registry. OOIDA’s arguments in the current case are that Mexican drivers in the program are not required to receive medical certification by an FMCSA-approved examiner.
FMCSA says it can only require Mexican and Canadian drivers to receive certification if Congress change or repeal prior agreements with the two countries regarding truck drivers entering the U.S. FMCSA says Congres has not indicated any plans to do so.
In the program’s first 18 months, 10 Mexican carriers have participated, and the agency has performed 935 inspections on their trucks. Participants have driven 283,279 miles in U.S. border states, with Texas leading with 163,120 miles. Arizona had the fewest of border states with 826 miles.
Florida led non-border states with 11,686 miles. Nearly 50,000 miles have been driven in non-border states.

From Study of 'border-fee' a bad idea that should be abandoned

Growing up in Caribou, barely 10 miles from New Brunswick, I saw every day that on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are the lifelong friends and family members, the shopping, medical services, churches, and all the other things that make a community. From Jackman to Fort Kent to Calais, Mainers understand the principle that, while America's borders must be closed to our enemies, they must always be open to our friends.
For that reason alone I and people throughout Maine were alarmed by the recent announcement that the Department of Homeland Security's proposed 2014 budget includes funding to study the feasibility and cost of instituting a fee for anyone crossing into our country by land — on foot, on a bike, or in a car — from Canada or Mexico. This is a bad idea that should be abandoned. And, as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have taken action to prevent scarce federal funds from being used for this ill-conceived purpose.
Any fee, no matter how small, would have a negative impact on the day-to-day commerce and travel between border communities. It would unduly penalize families who have relatives on either side of the border. In addition, it would damage relations between the United States and the neighbors that are vital trading partners. The Canadian ambassador told me that Canadians, too, are alarmed at the prospect of such a fee.
Maine's biggest trading partner, not surprisingly, is Canada. At the national level, too, America's biggest trading partner is Canada and Mexico is third. Our goal should be to enhance ties with our neighbors, not put what would be unnecessary barriers in place. In addition to our strong economic ties, we must preserve the friendships the United States enjoys with Canada and Mexico. Singling out our neighbors for a fee that would apply only to them would damage those relationships.
This fee would also hurt American border communities. According to the Maine International Trade Center, more than 300,000 people cross the U.S.-Canada border each day. Many American communities and businesses along the northern border rely on trade and tourism to power their economies, and imposing a land border fee on individuals would deter Canadians from visiting the United States. A decrease in tourism and travel would have a detrimental impact on these border communities. It would be truly ironic for the Department of Homeland Security, after investing significant taxpayer dollars in improving border facilities at such places as Calais, Van Buren and Jackman, to now adopt a policy that undoubtedly would cause a significant drop in their use.
While I recognize the difficult fiscal challenges facing the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security, imposing a border crossing fee for individuals crossing the border over land is not a sustainable solution to our budgetary concerns. For that reason, I am asking my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to join me in blocking this misguided proposal. Current federal law bars the U.S. Treasury and the attorney general from charging and collecting any fee for the immigration inspection and pre-inspection of passengers arriving over land at a U.S. port of entry whose journey originated in Canada or Mexico. This prohibition should be maintained.
One of the best examples of our special relationship with Canada is the "Hands Across the Border" summer festival, which demonstrates just how much the two municipalities of Calais, Maine, and St. Stephen, New Brunswick, truly are one community. We must not permit the hands of friendship from becoming hands demanding payment.

From ABC News: Boquillas Border Opening Could Be a Boon for Local Economy

May 8, 2013

BOQUILLAS, Coahuila, Mexico — A formal border crossing opened a few weeks ago along the Texas-Mexico border. It links a remote Mexican village with Big Bend National Park in West Texas. Villagers on the Mexican side, in the tiny village of Boquillas, hope the crossing will bring back the tourists who sustained their economy in the past, and they're already working to rebuild the tourist infrastructure.
Ivan Sanchez, 21, his face burnished by the sun, stands on a dusty cliff that spills into the Rio Grande. The United States is just steps away and is framed by a Grand Canyon-esque tableau that dwarfs Boquillas. Sanchez' boss, Bernardo Robles, is renovating a faded stone structure for tourists.
Robles said he believes Boquillas can anchor a reborn economy — by funneling tourists into the red rock wilderness that flanks Boquillas and two nearby villages.
Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, 20,000 visitors a year propped up the local economy. People crossed back and forth with ease and few formalities. But now everyone here knows who Osama Bin Laden is. After the attacks in New York and Washington, the border here was sealed, the economy gutted. The new border crossing is bringing hope, and outside help.
In September, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, an agency financed by Canada, the U.S. and Mexico under the NAFTA free trade agreement, awarded a 10 month, $100,000 contract to a Washington, D.C. consulting company called Solimar International to promote sustainable tourism here. Nine months into the contract, Solimar says it has drafted a business plan for a community-owned co-op to offer guides for back country trips.
That enterprise right now appears to be a two-room office with racks of pamphlets. A couple of people sitting around apologize that they’re not fully open yet. At least one group of tourists has been told guides are not yet available.
Solimar’s consultant on the Boquillas project is Ernesto Hernandez, a native of Veracruz, in southern Mexico.
“Tourists, sustainable tourists is the alternative to develop the economy for these communities,” Hernandez said. He believes the tourist industry here will change. “It’s going to be more organized. It is a big potential opportunity to show them Mexico in a cultural way and also at the same time develop some good economic interests or both sides.”
When the border crossing opened a few weeks ago, Solimar held what appeared to be an impromptu meeting with a dozen villagers. They were asked, "This is an economic development project, right?” Villagers nodded.
“We’ve spoken about conservation, improving life here, yes or no?" The reply: Si.
On the street, I ask a villager, Soccoro Limon, what does the group do ?
"I can't really say," she says in Spanish.
Boquillas today is a shell of its former self. Three hundred people then, and 90 now. But Boquillas exudes charm and a certain innocence, a legacy of its extreme isolation, and people here redefine the concept of hospitality.
But more than a few are skeptical about outsiders telling them how to deal with the hoped-for influx of tourists. Several are already sprucing up rooms to rent out and three guides told visitors to contact them directly.
Other villagers bristle, saying they don’t want outsiders fixing what they don’t believe is broken.
A man says, ‘Before 9-11 we dealt with tourists ourselves. We didn't have rules, we never had issues with tourism.”
Now, he said "we have to get permission from someone."
Preparations for visitors are one thing. But right now, not enough tourists are coming to make a difference.
Solimar’s contract expires next month.
If Boquillas is to become a model for rescuing broken border economies, villagers say it needs one thing; more visitors.