Ducheny Receives Ohtli Award

NARP board member Denise Moreno Ducheny was recently recognized by the Government of Mexico with the Ohtli Award, the highest recognition awarded by Mexico to U.S. citizens who have contributed in an exceptional manner to the development of the Mexican community abroad. Past recipients of this award include: President of the Educational Fund of NALEO, Arturo Vargas, Editor of “La Opinión” in Los Angeles, California, Mónica Lozano, President of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía (2009), former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and President of the Hispanic Leadership Institute, Dr. Juan Andrade Jr. (2010).

Denise Moreno Ducheny is a retired California senator from San Diego, serving in the state Assembly from 1994-2000 and then elected to state Senate in 2002. She will receive the award during the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials later this month in San Diego. For additional information, please see click here to read the NALEO press release.

NARP congratulates Denise for her outstanding work and this much-deserved recognition.

Uncommon Dialogue: U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Water Issues Conference Overview

NARP Portfolio Director Rick Van Schoik gave the opening keynote address at Stanford University’s Uncommon Dialogue: U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Water Issues conference June 1-June 3. Rick’s address, “Transborder Water Issues Governance (TWIG),” covered the basis of transborder water governance, including equitable utilization and shared benefits. He pointed out that society is only beginning to understand water’s true value and will continue to increase its appreciation for it under various global climate change (GCC) scenarios. He called out decision makers for ignoring water issues related to climate change, but affirmed that if sustainable, science-derived principles and insights are applied to the overall process, a water ethos that truly appreciates the resource at its essence may be adopted.  To learn more, click here for Rick’s full presentation.

The conference was organized by the Bill Lane Center and the Water in the West Program at Stanford Law School and featured panels such as “Groundwater in the Frontier,” “Binational Water/Energy Nexus Issues: the California-Baja California region,” and “The Colorado River.”  The overall takeaway was that food, water and energy are intricately connected and move beyond borders. To see a full list of panelists, please see the agenda. To view pictures, click here.

Recap: U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum (Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa)

This past Friday we held the second of four U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF) in Rio Rico, Arizona together with our partners, USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments-West, the Border Legislative Conference and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center.

Similar to the California-Baja California RECF, the Arizona-Sonora-Sinaloa forum consisted of highly informative, interactive panels and afternoon break-out sessions, where both speakers and attendees participated in the sharing of insight/recommendations on the regional economy, ports of entry management and infrastructure planning and connecting the region to the global economy. Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, U.S. House of Representatives and California State Senator Lou Correa, Chair of the Border Legislative Conference welcomed all participants with opening remarks, and the following panels proceeded:

Panel I: Challenges and Opportunities to Move People and Product Securely and Efficiently Along the Arizona – Sonora Border Region

Moderator: Luis Ramirez, President Ramirez Advisors Inter-National


  • Lance Jungmeyer, President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
  • Alfonso Soto Parada, President, Maquiladora Association of Sonora
  • William Brooks, Director of Field Operations, Tucson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

In this panel, speakers discussed the importance of rethinking how the border affects supply chains (in terms of infrastructure, technology and human capital); stated the challenges of insufficient infrastructure/mismanagement of the border (stressing the costs of border crossing wait times); and highlighted the potential of the large Arizona-Sonora ports of entry as well as the smaller ones.

Panel II: Promoting Regional Competitiveness

Moderator: Representative T.J. Shope, Arizona House of Representatives


  • Ricardo Brown, Investment Promoter, Economic Development Council for Sonora
  • Bruce Wright, Associate Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona, University of Arizona
  • Manuel Hopkins Ruiz, Director of Economic Development, City of Nogales, Sonora

Panelists’ stated that what distinguishes the AZ-Sonora/Sinaloa region is agro-business (importing the most amount of fresh produce from Mexico through Nogales), the mining industry (especially with a growing global demand for copper) and aerospace (where tech parks are leading the way for further innovation).

Luncheon Keynote speaker: Ana Luisa Fajer, Director General for North America, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ana Luisa Fajer, addressed the audience at the luncheon, discussing Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affair’s commitment to the border region; in appreciation for the key role it plays in increasing economic competitiveness for the United States and Mexico. She explained the priorities of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), including student exchange and collaboration through MUSEIC and FOBESSI. Fajer asserted that, “(we) should be thinking in North American terms: using education and innovation to allow us to be more competitive.” She ended her talk with recommendations to seek out:

  1. Technology and government management systems
  2. More efficient transportation infrastructure
  3. Economic clusters and logistics corridors
  4. Alternate funding sources for border infrastructure

Panel III: Arizona – Sonora Trade Corridor

Moderator: Diputada Mireya de Lourdes Almada Beltrán, Sonora State Legislature

  • Marisa Walker, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning & Infrastructure, Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Werner G. Cota Lopez, Confederation of Agriculture Associations, State of Sinaloa
  • David Careaga, General Director, Association of Farmers of Rio Culiacan
  • Russ Jones, Vice Chair, Border Trade Alliance and Former Representative, Arizona House of Representatives

This panel focused on the need for infrastructure, adequate staffing, and efficiency of border crossing for trade flows to run through.

Other distinguished participants included diplomats, business leaders and government officials, i.e.:

  • Mayor Arturo Garino, City of Nogales, Arizona
  • Mayor Douglas Nicholls, City of Yuma
  • Councilmember Reynaldo Gutiérrez, City of Nogales, Sonora
  • Representative Stefanie Mach, Arizona
  • Representative Victoria Steele, Arizona
  • Representative Macario Saldate IV, Arizona
  • Representative Rosanna Galbadon, Arizona

Our executive summary of the proceedings is forthcoming.  Also, Linda Valdez, columnist at the Arizona Republic, referenced the forum in her article, “Seal the Border? No. Staff the ports!” To read the article, click here. Lastly, to view pictures of the event, please click here.

Thank you to all who worked with us to make this forum a success. We look forward to continuing the series in Texas. Please check back in with us for more detailed information regarding the Laredo and El Paso forums and consider joining us.

Arizona’s Emerging and Multidimensional Commercial Relationship with Mexico

We are about to get underway here in Rio Rico for our second U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum. As we head into summer, we have been reflecting upon how 2014 is shaping up to be an extremely interesting year in Arizona on the issue of international trade. It is remarkable to see a number of developments around the state coming together at more or less the same time. They include the following:

  • The City of Phoenix issued a request for proposals earlier this year for a trade development specialist to be based in Mexico City.
  • The state of Arizona also plans to open an office in Mexico City.
  • Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was just awarded the Ohtli award by the Government of Mexico.
  • The state’s associations of government are beginning discussions with mayors in northern Sonora on creating a “megaregion” modeled on the CaliBaja megaregion comprising San Diego, Tijuana, the Imperial Valley and the Mexicali area.
  • The Joint Planning and Advisory Council of the state of Arizona’s associations of government is promoting an idea to make the entire state of Arizona accessible to Mexican Border Crossing Card holders, rather than just area between the border and Tucson.
  • Discussions continue with ProMéxico (the trade and investment promotion agency for the Government of Mexico) on a potential presence in Arizona for the agency.

Taken together this is really quite a remarkable turn of events, when you consider where the state was in 2010 in the wake of the highly controversial SB1070.

Beyond its diplomatic challenges with Mexico, Arizona’s current round of engagement with Mexico is linked to a realignment of the state’s economic priorities following the Great Recession. Much of this engagement proceeds from the assumption that increased international trade has the potential to drive future high-value added economic activity and create more high-paying jobs for the state’s citizens.

Activity around trade in the state takes place largely on four distinct yet related planes. The first plane is with our neighbors, Sonora and Sinaloa, which Southern Arizona economic stakeholders in particular continue to cultivate as vital, go-to customers in terms of crossborder trade (shopping, fruit and vegetable distribution, real estate).

The second plane of trade engagement is currently developing, is more long-distance in nature and comprises a type of trade diplomacy with political leaders and federal agencies in Mexico City (which makes sense, as Mexico’s tendency toward centralization is strong in all matters, including economic matters).

The third plane of engagement is in its infancy and has to do with linking existing Arizona companies as suppliers to the rapidly developing automotive and aerospace clusters in Mexico’s Bajío region.

The fourth plane of engagement is almost fully conceptual at this point but consists in cultivating Mexican foreign direct investment (FDI) in Arizona as Texas has successfully done. Currently, Mexican FDI in Arizona is utterly minimal but real movement on that plane would be an indicator that the state has moved into a new era.

All of Arizona’s rethinking and repositioning on trade with Mexico–its leading commercial partner–is taking place as a host of other U.S. states and cities as well as other nations intensify their presence in Mexico as that country enters an amazing and really unprecedented phase in its history of rapid and far-reaching economic reforms and international engagement.

What this means is that Arizona can no longer rely on geography as a natural advantage and instead must move toward diversifying its trading and diplomatic approach with Mexico, one of the world’s most important economies. Arizona leaders also need to understand that their discourse and policies on immigration are and will continue to be fundamentally tied to issues of economic development and particularly trade diplomacy, by Mexican partners. The state needs a safe and efficient border with Mexico but that approach in and of itself will need to be contemplated with a broader vision of all that it means to be fully pursuing a deep and sustainable commercial relationship with one of the planet’s most important emerging economies.

California-Baja California Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum Recap


(Left to right) Senator Correa listens to Chris Wilson, Mexico Institute, Erik Lee, NARP Executive Director, and Rick Van Schoik, NARP Portfolio Director, present findings from break-out sessions

We are delighted to be working with a number of excellent partners on the U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF), including USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments-West, the Border Legislative Conference and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center. The series of four regional economic competitiveness analyzes the future of the U.S.-Mexico border economy with a focus on the following border sub-regions: California – Baja California; Arizona – Sonora; Texas -Chihuahua- New Mexico; and Texas– Coahuila- Nuevo Leon- Tamaulipas.

Together with these abovementioned partners we kicked off the series in San Diego on March 21 with a reception at the Marriott Marquee in downtown San Diego on March 21, 2014. Keynote speakers and honorees included Remedios Gómez Arnau, Consul General of Mexico in San Diego, and Andrew S.E. Erickson, U.S. Consul General in Tijuana. The following morning, key business, government and other stakeholders convened to begin the California-Baja California RECF. Panels included discussions on the regional economy in terms of competitiveness and innovation (panelists from the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, the Port of San Diego, U.S. Commercial Service, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation); ports of entry management and infrastructure planning (panelists from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the San Diego Association of Governments, the Imperial County Transportation Commission, the San Diego – Tijuana Smart Border Coalition and Project-21 / Frontera-21 of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association) ;and cross-border economic clusters (panelists from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Cali Baja Mega Region Initiative, the Institute for Regional Development at ITESM).

Both speakers and attendees participated in afternoon break-out sessions to gather more detailed input on the regional economy, ports of entry management and infrastructure planning and connecting the Californias to the global economy. Click here to read the findings from the forum. To view more photos of the event, please click here.

We look forward to the second forum which will take place this Friday, May 16th, in Rio Rico, Arizona. Please consider joining us in participating in this forum or the following forums in Texas.


Launching the U.S.- Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums 2014

The North American Research Partnership, together with USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments West, the U.S. Congressional Border Caucus, and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center, is looking forward to the launch of the Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF) this week (March 20-21) in San Diego, California. The RECF are aimed at convening key regional stakeholders, to promote the exchange of information on strategies to improve the border region’s competitiveness, and develop local, state legislative, and executive branch recommendations to achieve the goals outlined during the events. Four regional economic competitiveness forums are planned and will be targeted along the following border sub-regions: California – Baja California; Arizona – Sonora; Texas -Chihuahua- New Mexico; and Texas– Coahuila- Nuevo Leon- Tamaulipas. These forums will take place in the spring and summer of 2014 and will build on the work completed during the first round of regional economic forums that took place in 2005, which led to the development of a white paper titled “A New Vision for Trade along the U.S. – Mexico Border Region.”

Erik Lee, NARP Executive Director, Rick Van Schoik, NARP Portfolio Director, and Christopher Wilson, Associate at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, have co-authored a thought paper summarizing the key topic points (Thought Paper RECF March 2014). The input gathered from each regional forum will be published in the weeks following each regional forum, but will also form part of a comprehensive report that will be presented to local, state and federal officials from both Mexico and the United States this fall in Washington D.C.

For more information and to register for the upcoming forum, please click here. 

Leaders pass test

The North American Leaders Summit was a success–despite many attempts to paint the new TPP trade deal as an even dirtier word than NAFTA. For many of us, it’s difficult to remember 20 years ago before NAFTA but Mexico had a number of issues of economic and political stability that it does not have today. Part of this can be attributed to NAFTA. While the negotiations and press conference this week showed each nation wanting its own means and ends, the North American region, especially as compared to the trans-Pacific region, won by remaining the most “competitive and dynamic” continent in the world. The dynamism of energy development and subsequent energy security was rarely mentioned but was the subtext to work in other areas, including everything from trade to climate to border cooperation.

Is Arizona stepping back into the game in Mexico City?

Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee Meeting, February 10,2014

Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee Meeting, February 10, 2014

The Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee met February 10 to discuss the possibility of the state joining the City of Phoenix’s efforts in opening a trade office in Mexico City. Glenn Hamer, President & CEO Arizona Chamber of Commerce; Sandra Watson, CEO Arizona Commerce Authority; Margie Emmerman, Executive Director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; and Hank Marshall, City of Phoenix Economic Development Director presented perspectives on the impact such an office would have on the the Arizona economy, citing Mexico as Arizona’s number one trading partner with $7 billion in exports and comprising 40% of its export market. Phoenix City Council members Sal DeCiccio and Michael Nowakowski emphasized the importance of the state’s involvement. Business owner Lorena Valencia, President of Reliance Wire & Cable, implored the committee to “Take the chance while you have the choice.” For Valencia’s business headquartered in Scottsdale, sitting on the sidelines when it comes to Mexico is not an option and an AZ trade office in Mexico City would provide much needed support.

The idea of having representation offices in foreign markets is not new to the State of Arizona. Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson noted that before the Great Recession, the state operated offices not only in Mexico, but also in Canada, Europe and Japan. The offices were closed for further evaluation due to poor return on investment coupled with the state’s budget shortfall.

Today, 22 other states and/or cities have some sort of representation in Mexico, either through a permanently staffed office or through a business consultant. States like Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Utah, Ohio, and others have invested in a long term political and economic relationship with Mexico. The City of San Antonio has several offices.

Supporters urged the committee to consider a long-term political and economic commitment from the state and other key stakeholders. Consensus among the state, as well as the City of Phoenix, Tucson and other stakeholders will be necessary in order to develop a long-term, phased-out plan with a clear set of goals and metrics for the state’s representation abroad.

By J. Alejandro Figueroa, Principal, Strategy International, LLC & Director, U.S. Operations at Bilateral Council and Ruth Soberanes, Research Analyst, North American Research Partnership

Michoacán and Public Policy: Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste

Many thanks to Gabriella Sánchez for her interesting take on the local roots of the conflict in Michoacán, which serves not only as a dramatic example of public safety issues boiling over but also for the way it speaks to a number of public policy areas simultaneously, including environmental, agricultural and even fiscal policies, among others. Most directly, of course, the crisis brings attention on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s security policy, anchored by a focus on reducing violence, centralizing federal security efforts, a new communications policy and creating a national gendarmerie (I would highly recommend viewing analyst Alejandro Hope’s excellent review of the policy during the Mexico Institute’s recent event, “The State of Citizen Security in Mexico: The Pena Nieto Administration’s First Year in Review.”). In fact, watch the entire video.

The crisis in Michoacán has touched off a tremendous discussion in Mexico over what the next steps should be. The Saturday Los Angeles Times piece by Richard Fausset is one of the better articles in English on the crisis, with a focus on the difficult options for Mexican federal, state and local officials. To wit: How do federal forces work together with the grupos de autodefensa? Should Mexico incorporate some or all of the vigilante groups into formal law enforcement? What is to be done about the government officials who aided and abetted the Knights Templars? In other words, extremely tough public policy questions, but an impressive range of ideas from analysts that have the potential to impact the issues going forward. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” to quote Rahm Emanuel.

Though Michoacán is located hundreds of miles south of Mexico’s border with the United States and by no means has a direct impact on U.S. security, it does raise comparisons to the (binational) response to the violence in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez during the truly dark days of 2009-2011. The security situation in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez is now much improved; in both cities, the role of civic organizations and detailed state-federal political and policy agreements were critical factors in bringing the city back from the brink. The multi-issue, multi-level response to border security challenges is a clear indication that Mexico is more than capable of addressing security issues. These are solvable problems in the medium-term that require strong initial investment and then a willingness to take on significant institutional change.

Of course, a number of critically important security areas in Mexico need continuing attention, including public participation, police reform and judicial reform. Successfully addressing these issues will positively impact U.S.-Mexico border security, as Eric Olson and I wrote in our chapter on security in the State of the Border Report. Binational collaboration can help to a degree in certain specific areas, and through the Mérida Initiative, the United States has invested in rule of law efforts in Mexico, including trainings for Mexican judges, prosecutors, forensic experts and police coordinated by the Conference of Western Attorneys General. Our 2011 report on binational anti-human trafficking cooperation efforts highlighted some additional and important collaborative work on an issue of mutual importance to both governments.

Public security in Mexico is a complex topic of immense importance for Mexico and, indirectly, the United States and Central America. A quick list of recommended work in English in this area includes David Shirk’s recent policy piece on the state of public security in Mexico, Daniel Sabet’s Police Reform in Mexico: Informal Politics and the Challenge of Institutional Change and Robert Donnelly and David Shirk’s Police and Public Security in Mexico. In Mexico, the Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad, CIDAC and México Evalúa are among many non-governmental groups doing important work in this area.



Understanding Michoacán’s Grupos de Autodefensa

Note: Dr. Gabriella Sánchez is a postdoctoral researcher at Monash University’s Border Crossing Observatory who has written about immigration enforcement, border crossings, human smuggling and trafficking. She is originally from the Mexican state of Michoacán, which has emerged in the news lately in a conflict involving self-defense groups, criminal organizations and Mexican military and law enforcement. We asked her for her thoughts on the local roots of Michoacán’s current conflict.

Graphic images of tattooed, armed men wearing ski masks; of burn-down trucks along highways and of military vehicles occupying quaint towns afflicted by the alleged battles among drug trafficking organizations and vigilantes, have recently dominated the coverage of the violence in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

The state has been in the news lately given a series of violent events in what is known as Tierra Caliente, a region of this Southwestern state along the Pacific Coast. In mid-January, members of the Mexican military allegedly shot civilians who were attempting to defend the towns of Nueva Italia and Antunez from an incursion from drug traffickers, leaving at least three people dead. Protests and violent reactions ensued.

The people of Tierra Caliente, as in other regions throughout Michoacán, have been involved in generation-long conflicts over the control of natural resources and the intervention of corporations that exploit them – often illicitly. Many of these conflicts – and the struggles of community members to preserve and defend their lands – precede the presence and the activities of other groups or organizations in the state (namely, groups involved in drug trafficking operations such as La Familia Michoacana  and the ensuing Knights of Templar). As early as the 1980s, ejidatarios (those living and working on communal lands) and other concerned community members would head deep into the mountains’ forests in order to protect them from night time logging incursions.

Yet most reports on the current state of violence in Michoacán – a region under strain by high levels of outmigration, decreasing economic growth and weakened state powers— have until now failed to acknowledge the historical context surrounding the emergence of the Grupos de Autodefensa, favoring instead sensationalistic images and superficial analysis that characterize these community-based movements as violent, predatory  and  dangerous, while justifying their repression, as exemplified by January’s events.

The recent wave of violence involve the latest efforts on the part of local communities to prevent the illicit exploitation of water, land and forests, and the acts of violence that their members have been subjected to by multiple parties – not just the feared members of criminal groups, but also large corporations, the military and other state agencies of control.  The Catholic Church, primarily through Apatzingán’s bishop, has become a welcome interlocutor. Social media has also been an important vehicle for auto-defensas to avoid the media’s noise. Community responses will continue, and their impact at creating new forms of authority and control deserve close attention. While forecasts of civil war or widespread violence are premature, a closer, empirically-based analysis of the events taking place in Michoacán is needed in order to map the wider, even global significance of the emergence of local groups defending their land and resources.