Congressman Beto O’Rourke on Buzzfeed as ‘Juarez’s Biggest Booster’
El Pasoan and U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke is featured in an article on Buzzfeed. Check it out!
In the article, they discuss his affinity for Juarez and call him “the unofficial captain of the Juarez tourism board”.
First, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Beto for quite awhile. I’ve always liked him and, a few political differences notwithstanding, admired him. So, as an admittedly biased commentator, here are a few of my observations on this article.
Let’s start with the headline:
Juarez’s Biggest Booster Is An Irish-American Congressman
No lie, but when I first glanced at the headline I thought it said “Juarez’s Biggest BOOZER Is An Irish-American Congressman”! For a second or two I thought this was going to be a very different kind of article. Then, as I read literally the first sentence of the story…
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — If you ask U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke for a bar recommendation in Juarez, he’s quick to tick off his favorite spots.
Okay! I don’t know whether to be more insulted as a fellow El Pasoan or as a fellow Irishman. Fortunately, this was not a drinking guide to Juarez’s best slosh-houses. Just a bit of local color to set the scene.
“If you say Juarez is less safe, by extension you’re hurting El Paso. Because if you have less investment, less travel, less opportunity here, you see less on the other side in El Paso,”
This is a direct quote from Beto. I would argue that the effect on local commerce shouldn’t factor into travel warnings from the State Department. Threat assessment and safety to American life and limb should be the only factors considered. If a travel warning is unfair, let it be unfair on its own (de)merits. Are we going to tell Americans that all is hunky-dory in Juarez just so we can skim a few extra tourist dollars?
Next, Beto on Juarez visitors to El Paso…
“A lot of them [are] shoppers. It’s a huge driver for the El Paso economy,” O’Rourke says, adding that combined with international trade done across the border, economic activity with Mexico accounts for nearly one quarter of the jobs in El Paso.
I can’t help but wonder how much of that “quarter of all jobs” includes Border Patrol, ICE, Police and Sheriff’s. Not to mention jail personnel and attorneys when wayward visitors are accused of a crime.
“In my role as a representative for El Paso, I’ve got to take into account what’s going on in Juarez. If Juarez is hurt, it hurts El Paso. If Juarez is thriving, El Paso is thriving. And vice versa.”
I’d like to think that El Paso is a little more self-sufficient than that. When the worst-case scenario was happening in Juarez a few years back, did El Paso become a pathetic shell of it’s former self? I’m asking because, if it did, I didn’t notice. I’m sure some sectors felt the pinch more than others but, remember, this was occurring at the same time as a terrible downturn in the U.S. economy. All in all, I’d say El Paso held it’s head above water when Juarez was experiencing the darkest times imaginable. I would add, it’s a good thing. I would be very nervous if our fortunes were directly tied to those of a narco-state that continues to prove itself unable or unwilling to do anything about the rampant corruption that defines modern Mexico.
This may be at the heart of my problem with being so sympathetic with Juarez that we’re willing to take blame that we don’t deserve. I hear people from all strata of Mexican society who are eager to point out America’s culpability in their problems but not so willing to take a look inward. I also hear from their pity-partners on this side of the border. The fact is, most of Mexico’s problems are Mexican in origin. From police that need a fiver or ten to not arrest you to a medieval system of patronage that seems to define many Latin American countries, the corruption is rife from top to bottom. Instead of finding new and creative ways of blaming America, Mexico should be striving to be more like America. We ain’t perfect but at least we ain’t that.
“You wouldn’t have a travel advisory to Detroit, or New Orleans, or Washington, D.C., and yet the State Department issues one for Ciudad Juarez,” he says.
I once took a wrong turn leaving the State Fair in Dallas. I would have really appreciated a travel advisory that weekend.
“Personally, I feel very safe here, my friends feel very safe here.”
I’d also feel safer if 1.) it’s broad daylight and 2.) I were a U.S. Congressman. I’d feel less safe if I were some teenagers that happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This happened in May of this year. That must’ve been right before Beto sounded the all clear, I’m guessing. There’s also this one .. and this can happen if you’re a student protesting against, of all things, police corruption in southern Mexico.
Let’s not forget U.S. Marine Corp. Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi who made the mistake, not of taken guns into Mexico when he made a wrong turn, but of admitting to the Mexican authorities his error. He’s been in Mexican Prison for over 200 days now and every time I take that Paisano exit and see the “Mexico Ahead” sign my NRA card-carrying balloon-knot puckers up a little.
Maybe Beto can make his next pub-crawl to Baja and take some time to put in the good word for Sgt. Tahmooressi. It couldn’t hurt. AND, I hear their cantinas have every bit as much third-world charm as Juarez’s.