Political breakthrough' seen


April 25, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — When Mexican President Vicente Fox appointed Ernesto Ruffo Appel to his cabinet, Fox told him to increase economic development along the United States' border.

Ruffo, the first national commissioner of border affairs and a former governor of Baja California, set about doing just that Tuesday when he met with Imperial Valley elected and economic leaders Tuesday at the Barbara Worth Golf Resort.

"This is a political breakthrough," Ruffo said.

"President Fox is recognizing the Mexican north. Mexico is decentralizing. I am now able to promote new policy and pass it on to Mexico City and Washington, D.C," Ruffo said during his speech.

In previous Mexican administrations the needs of northern states and border cities were ignored in favor of the central states, said Ruffo, a member of Fox's National Action Party and the first PAN candidate to be elected governor in Mexico's history.


Funding for programs was scarce and Ruffo, Baja governor from 1989-95, was always scrapping with other governors and previous administrations to build roads, power plants and infrastructure.

"Now everything has changed," Ruffo said.

Ruffo described the conversation he had with Fox that preceded his appointment.

"‘Ruffo,' he told me, ‘realize the potential of the border but please send a little of the prosperity down to the central states.'"

Sending prosperity to the central states and not the other way around is a completely new way of doing things for Mexico, Ruffo said.

This new way of doing things will have a direct benefit for the Imperial Valley, Ruffo said.

"It is why I am here in front of you," Ruffo said.

Ruffo called on Imperial Valley leaders to define who will lead projects to benefit both countries.

Some of those projects include the transfer of water to the San Diego, Los Angeles and Tijuana areas, energy production and infrastructure for new manufacturing plants.

Members of the Imperial Irrigation District, county Farm Bureau and county Board of Supervisors listened as Ruffo described the role they would play.

"We need to make an opportunity of our limitations," Ruffo told them.

To do that, Ruffo said, the two countries need to take advantage of the available work force and abundant land of the Imperial and Mexicali valleys.

"This region needs to move from labor-intensive processes like assembly plants and upgrade to manufacturing," Ruffo said.

To do that, he said, the education level of residents on both sides of the border would have to be addressed.

Khosrow Fatemi, dean of San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus, told Ruffo he hopes to have 25 percent of his student body attending Mexicali universities in the near future and vice-versa.

He called the border a microcosm of the future and vowed to work with Ruffo to train the next generation for better-paying and higher-skills jobs.

Regarding the water transfer, Ruffo said the matter is settled on the Mexican side of the border.

"We are ready to build an aqueduct and supply Tijuana with water from our water rights on the Colorado," Ruffo said.

He will be meeting today with U.S. officials in San Diego to discuss just what sort of partnership will be forged to carry out the transfer.

Regarding the energy crisis affecting both countries, Ruffo said Mexico will build power plants and send electricity over the border but will need American natural gas and water in exchange.

Mexicali Mayor Victor Hermosillo said Ruffo has a tough task but is the man for the job.

"As governor he showed that he is able to withstand a lot of political heat and survive. He can accomplish things in this region," Hermosillo said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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