THE HISPANIC EXPERIENCE
Houston Institute for Culture
Interview with Mexican Consul and Diplomat Eduardo Ibarrola
By Rose Mary Salum [ SPANISH VERSION ]
Translated by Brad Davis
ROSE MARY SALUM Has the role of the Mexican Consulate changed or evolved in recent years? In what way?
EDUARDO IBARROLA The work of the Mexican Consulates has evolved in accordance with the development of the Mexican community. The necessities of the co-nationals that reside outside of Mexico keep changing. It is very important to maintain a close relationship with the community, to be able to know their needs and thus be able to give them better consular services.
The protection of Mexicans is one of the most important duties of the consulates. Among other actions it offers help and counsel in matters of immigration, work, civil and administrative issues, it participates in repatriations, it supervises procedures so that they are carried out in compliance with the laws. In the case of Houston in particular, we have been able to serve approximately eight thousand cases in the year 2003, which moved us to first place in the United States.
The community should not forget to respect and observe the laws of this country, without regard to place of origin or immigration status of the person. If unfortunately, someone is detained for whatever reason, the person should know that he has the right to communicate with his Consulate and to remain silent until he has received advise from his lawyer or from the Consul.
The Mexican Consulate's Department of Protection of Mexicans gives free orientation and advice. People can appeal to the consulate and there they are given the orientation necessary, or if the case merits, we recommend an attorney to them that can take on their unresolved matter.
Of particular importance is the program that offers protection to the co-nationals condemned to death, with the end that their cases are reviewed and when legally possible, avoid that they be executed.
SALUM What image of Mexico is projected abroad?
IBARROLA Mexico projects to the world the level of maturity that our democratic institutions have reached and the advances that our political culture has experienced, reflecting the image of a pluralistic, transparent, safe country that has a great history, cultural expressions and traditions. The administration of President Fox has supported and promoted, in a very active and committed manner, the respect and defense of human rights just as it has driven a sustained and substantial international economic development, with benefits that reach everyone.
SALUM Which have been the successes and challenges for Mexico posed by NAFTA?
IBARROLA Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico, the results have been immediate. Ten years after the signing of this commercial agreement, Mexico has converted itself into the second largest commercial partner of the United States. According to the figures of Bancomex, between 1993 and 2002 the commercial exchange between both countries grew from $88 to $249 billion, the bilateral exchange surpassed $680 million daily. NAFTA has shown itself to be a useful instrument for economic development.
SALUM What position does Mexico take to enrich its relations with Mexican-American citizens in the United States?
IBARROLA For President Vicente Fox, the Mexican communities in the United States are a priority. President Fox has asked very emphatically that we Mexican Consuls in the United States continue carrying on a dialogue with the Mexican communities located in this country.
An example of this is the creation of the Institute for Mexicans Living Abroad. The objective of this institute is to promote strategies, integrate programs and collect proposals and recommendations from the communities, their members, their organizations and consultative organs, leading to the improvement of relations between Mexico and the Mexicans that live in the United States and to promote conditions that permit a higher standard of living for Mexican communities abroad, by executing the directives that emanate from the National Council for Mexican Communities Abroad.
The Consultative Council of this institute is made up of 152 members, of which four represent the service area of the Consul General of Mexico in Houston. These advisors were duly elected in 2002 in the offices of the Consulate.
SALUM What positive or negative elements do you see in the new proposed immigration law?
IBARROLA One must remember that this is only a proposal. For its application, the proposal of President Bush must be converted into law. For that to occur, it most certainly will have to be analyzed, discussed and in this case voted upon and approved by the Congress of the United States, which will take time. The important issue is that the topic of immigration reform is on the political agenda of the United States.
SALUM What short- or long-term solutions does Mexico present for the continuing wave of emigration to the United States?
IBARROLA The administration of President Fox has put a great deal of emphasis on the economic development of Mexico via a policy that generates employment for Mexicans in our country. It is working on fiscal, energy and labor reforms that promote competition in Mexico. Nevertheless, the migration will continue while the work market in the United States keeps demanding manual labor of Mexican workers. On the other hand, demographic trends indicate that the migratory phenomenon will continue and this frames the process of globalization that we are currently experiencing.
SALUM How would a change in US leadership due to the North American elections affect Mexico?
IBARROLA The results of the electoral competition should not affect the Mexico-United States relationship. The relationship between our countries is historic, intense and complex but institutional.
SALUM In the Mexican community that lives in Houston, you have always been perceived as a man of service to the community. From the cultural to the economic and political aspects, what were your major accomplishments during your stay in Houston?
IBARROLA I have tried to improve the service of the Consulate: not limiting the number of slots for attending the public; more dynamic methods of receiving documents were created; a method of telephone appointments was established for the temporary import of vehicles in times of high service demand; the presence of the Consulate in the press was increased, which allowed the people to get closer to us and helped us to get in close contact with the community.
Mobile consulates were initiated for the cities of Bryan, Lufkin and Victoria in the state of Texas, as well as in New Orleans, Shreveport and Forest Hills in Louisiana, through which we were able to take consular services to thousands of Mexicans that reside outside of the metropolitan Houston area.
Without a doubt, one very important achievement is that the city councils of Houston, Conroe and Lufkin have accepted, by consensus, the Consular registration as an official identification document.
On the other hand, being able to attend quickly and opportunely to the survivors of the tragedy in Victoria, helping them to communicate with their families in Mexico and offering them the corresponding consular protection, was very important.
I am sad to leave Houston because I leave behind good friends that I made during my stay; besides, the life in Houston is particularly agreeable. But at the same time, I am leaving content about my new professional challenge. Houston is an extraordinary city to live in and I take good memories with me. The Mexican community in Houston is strong, composed of hardworking people that have values and traditions. They contribute to the economy of Mexico, but without a doubt they play a fundamental role in the development of Houston.
In Houston there exists a group of businessmen of Mexican origin that has been very successful in diverse types of businesses, that generates jobs, and that imports products from Mexico. These numerous Mexican impresarios are grouped in chambers and other groups that maintain an intimate, daily relationship with the Consulate.
SALUM And your new projects for Washington?
IBARROLA President Fox recently named a new Mexican Ambassador to the United States. His name is Carlos de Icaza, a career ambassador, an experienced and prestigious diplomat.
I am going to the Mexican Embassy as the Chief of the Chancellery, that is to say, I will be the second in command. My principal functions will consist of attending to the daily operation of the many diverse administrative and ancillary units that make up the embassy, aid the ambassador in diplomatic affairs that he entrusts to me, substitute for him when he is out of Washington and, in general, attend to the specific tasks that are entrusted to me by Ambassador de Icaza.
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