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Carlos Bustamante Anchondo

MEXICO - Economy

The Real Face

Mayor, Tijuana


Carlos Bustamante Anchondo was born in 1945 and graduated in Business Administration from the University of San Diego. He was elected Mayor of Tijuana on July 5, 2010, running as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate. He has had a long career in various positions, including in the educational, institutional, and industry promotion fields. Before becoming Mayor of Tijuana, his other political activities have included being a Senate candidate for the State of Baja California, President of the PRI’s State Financing Committee during the presidential campaign of Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León, and President of the State Committee of Financing and Strengthening of the PRI in Baja California during the campaign of Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta.

What is the importance of Tijuana to Mexico? Tijuana is now considered either the third or fourth largest city in Mexico, and has over 2 million people. Our border with […]

What is the importance of Tijuana to Mexico?

Tijuana is now considered either the third or fourth largest city in Mexico, and has over 2 million people. Our border with California gives us the largest crossing between two nations, with over 16 million people crossing per year. Our economy is more or less a revolving door with Southern California. We have a city that has over 30 public and private universities. We are one of the largest industrial cities in Mexico, and along the border with the US we are the most important city. We have an inspirational concept that we call “San Diego, Tijuana: two cities, one region.” We share the same air and water and there are at least 80,000 US citizens that live in Tijuana. The only problem that Tijuana has right now is the delay crossing the border because the US is investing $600 million in revamping the border crossings. There have been delays on the US side; however, the Mexican side was finished in November 2012. The delays can take three or four hours, which is unacceptable to both sides and it hurts. San Diego County receives about $6 billion in business from Tijuana residents every year. It is a little uneven because we are getting $1.5 billion from San Diego. A few years ago, we had the perception of violence, but I can name you several US cities of a comparable size that are a lot more violent. We have reduced crime by around 60%-70% over the past two years, and now if you go to Tijuana you see the nightlife is back. The only problem we have with tourism is the border crossing. You don’t want to go for dinner and lunch and wait two hours to cross the border. We have formed a bi-national association across the border cities because our capitals have difficulties—Washington, DC and Mexico City—understanding border economies. It is a different economy because our commercial areas compete with the more sophisticated places in the US. A lot of people don’t realize that the economic activities between all the border cities from the east coast to the west coast form the sixth largest economy in the world, and Tijuana is the leader of that. The association that we built with US border cities started two years ago. I was chairman on the Mexican side and the Mayor from El Paso was the chairman of the US side. That helped us lobby to get more things done and encourage a better understanding in our capitals. It helps to have not just one mayor going, but the mayors from both sides. It is kind of working. I think the change in our federal government has done great things for Tijuana. One of the things you are going to see is a new transit system here. Thanks to President Peña Nieto’s understanding that this city needed a makeover in its transportation, we can look forward to immense growth. Many people come here with the intention of crossing the border, which is much more difficult now, and they end up staying in Tijuana. They say that Tijuana grows three hectares a day. We are really having difficulties in catching up with utilities and infrastructure. With President Peña Nieto giving us federal funds for the new infrastructure, you are going to see a different Tijuana in two or three years.

What plans do you have in terms of infrastructure investment?

The first investment is for Ps1.5 billion, and there is going to be much more. There is a lot of private investment right now in the commercial areas. I think Tijuana will be the second largest city in Mexico very soon. We have an excellent airport connection to the entire country and our road network is very good. We are rebuilding the inner city system, in which the city is going to invest about Ps800 million in 2013 to fix the roads and infrastructure to better receive foreign and local investment. I think that we have an excellent relationship between our labor and business communities, and one of the things we promote in Asia and Europe is the education system that we have here. For example, one of the universities that we built about 15 years ago is Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana (ITT), which has over 2,000 students. The curriculum can be adjusted to what investors need. For example, Toyota has been here for several years and we did the training for all of its employees at the university. One thing that stands out is that about 80% of the students have a job when they graduate. The flexibility of being able to ensure the companies that they will have a workforce is extremely important. There are over 4,000 trucks that cross every day from Tijuana through the commercial area, and this number is growing. We are trying to, with the federal government, repair the old rail system that is not in service right now. That is another thing that we are trying to obtain from President Peña Nieto, which we are sure we will get. There are many things that we are doing right now to receive more investment because we have so many people. A problem is that California is deporting around 300-400 people a day. We don’t have the infrastructure or the money as a city to help them out. We have been talking to the US authorities because they deport them by air out of Phoenix and El Paso to the country that they came from. We are about to get authorization to fly them out of the US side. That is a joint program with the US government because that is really a human problem. You pick up these people and they have families, but they are called “illegal,” but “undocumented” is a better word. At night, they open the gate and push them back to Tijuana with only the clothes on their back—no identification or anything. We really have that problem. Now, what we are doing is helping them take a bus back home, but we cannot force them. California is emptying its prisons of not just Mexicans, but Central Americans as well.

Why is it so important for Tijuana to diversify trade relations?

I am actually a businessperson. This is the first time I have been a politician. I am very optimistic about Asia because when Samsung came to Tijuana it was because I took it to our industrial park, and it grew so much that it built its own Samsung City. We also have Kyocera from Japan and Hyundai from South Korea. We were just there in November 2012, and it is starting another investment to build parts for motors in the Alabama plant. Instead of bringing its suppliers from South Korea or China, it is building them in Tijuana. Right now, if you check the cost of labor in China and add the high cost of transport and shipping and oil, the Chinese have more benefits; however, it is not as cheap as it used to be. A decade ago some US firms that were in Tijuana went to China, and now they are coming back to Tijuana.

How do you foresee the new administration creating changes in Tijuana?

President Peña Nieto, during and after his campaign, was the first elected president to receive the mayors from all over the country. He understands that everything starts at the local level. We call him the “Municipality President.” He visits the different cities, and he came to Tijuana 15 days after he took office to see what we were doing. For all the cities, he is very interested in what we are going to do to prevent crime. The government is giving us Ps58 million for crime prevention. The President is very interested in pacifying the cities and I think it is going to be great for all the cities, not just Tijuana.



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