Mexican president visits Reynosa, outlines border vision

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds his first news conference as president in Mexico City, Monday, Dec. 3, 2018. The new Mexican president visited Reynosa on Friday. (Christian Palma | The Associated Press)

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador visited Reynosa on Friday and outlined his ambitious border plan that includes doubling the minimum wage for Mexican border residents and increasing pay for maquiladora employees as part of a barnstorming tour across his country.

Lopez Obrador called for a calmer Reynosa, and state of Tamaulipas, which has not improved its violence during the two-year tenure of McAllen-born Gov. Francisco Garcia Cabeza de Vaca.

“We are going to invest a lot in the welfare of the people,” Lopez Obrador said, “because peace and tranquility are the fruits of justice.”

But the recently sworn-in president will have no easy task, as Mexico’s northern border is mostly controlled by transnational criminal groups who charge thousands of dollars to smuggle immigrants into the United States, rendering many Mexican border towns dangerous.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling attended Lopez Obrador’s address in downtown Reynosa on Friday, before the president shuttled off to other Mexican border cities, such as Ciudad Juarez across from El Paso.

Lopez Obrador arrived in Reynosa on Friday on a commercial flight, part of his ongoing populist agenda to buck presidential norms. Other efforts have included not living in the historic presidential residence in Mexico City, called Los Pinos, which he has turned into a museum.

“There was no security, it was really something,” Darling said in an interview. “He seems like a guy you’d want to sit down and have a beer with.”

Lopez Obrador’s plan centers on economics, hoping to provide better job opportunities for Mexican border residents.

“He wants the maquilas to raise wages 400 percent,” Darling said. “I sat next to a maquila guy and he didn’t clap for that one.”