The Honorable Oscar Rodriguez Cabrera

Consul General of Mexico in Houston

Interview by: Blanca Beltran

Q: First, tell us about yourself and walk us through your background?

A: I come from a very small town called, Campeche, state of Campeche, just across from the Gulf of Mexico. I am a lawyer and have been in politics in my hometown. I have been working in what we call the alcaldías, it’s like the mayor, and really it’s more similar to a judge. I have held several positions related to the state government and I was a member of the Federal Congress.

What makes Campeche different is that we produce 70 percent of oil in Mexico. So even though it is so small and with a small population, we have been involved in oil and gas 35 years. I was appointed here by President Enrique Peña Nieto two years ago to talk about the Energy Reform that the federal government implemented in Mexico. I talk to the oil business people and let them know about the opportunities in Mexico.  My first year in as Consul was dedicated to the promotion of this reform.

Q: What does a Consul in your capacity do?

A: My duty is to be the visible face of the Mexican government for the Houston community.  It is important that we work with local governments, businesses and communities to promote all what Mexico has to offer. The Mexican Consulate in Houston is the third biggest in the United States. The biggest one is the one in Los Angeles, followed by Chicago, Houston and then Dallas. Even though the circumscription covered by the Consulate in Houston is geographically smaller than that of Dallas, because they cover a larger portion of northern Texas, the population is almost the same.

Q: Tell us about the Consulate General of Mexico in Houston. What parts of America are covered by the Consulate and what are the services it provides?

A: The Consulate of Mexico in Houston is one of the biggest in the United States and we are the connection of the Mexican community in Houston to their government and their homeland.

Our first floor is what you call documentation. We have 12 windows to attend, between 600 to 1,000 people daily. They are here to apply for passports, consular IDs — also known as matrícula consular —, voting IDs, and birth certificates.

The matricula consular has been on the market for more than 20 years and we have been working really hard with a lot of public and private institutions, like banks, sheriff and police departments to show them all of the steps needed to obtain it.  It is a document that they can trust because we make sure that the person who shows the ID, is who it says it is.

Another feature of the matrícula that most of the police organizations over here like is that it shows if the person has a legal problem in Mexico, so we cannot issue the ID in that scenario. This is very useful because some people say that we are sending our criminals to the United States. In reality we do not want criminals coming into United States. The same way, we understand that the United States doesn’t want criminals from the United States to head to Mexico. On the second floor of the Consulate, we have the Civil Registry area, for people whose kids are American but want them to have both nationalities. This is a process that we recommend Mexican parents here in the United States to do because if, for any reason, they have to go back to Mexico, they could suffer what their parents suffered in the United States, but now in Mexico. So, we recommend them to register and have the benefits of both nationalities. In this floor we also provide powers of attorney. If they want someone in Mexico to do something for them, we can provide them with a power of attorney.  So, whoever they appoint can work and do what they need in Mexico.

We talked about the documentation, the civil registration, but we also have a Department of Protection. This is the one in charge of many issues that we face while working here in the United States. We have more than 20 lawyers and local workers who are dealing every day on cases in which Mexicans need legal advice We have also hired more than eight law firms to help us with the different cases, from issues that range from accidents, traffic violations, and also death penalty cases. In Mexico, we do not accept the death penalty, so we work really hard every time that a Mexican is sentenced to death, to try to help with their situation.

Q: What are some past, present and future goals for Mexico’s relationship with the United States?

A: First, we are neighbors. Both countries have worked hard to overcome our differences and reach agreements to find common solutions for our shared challenges.  Just consider the trade between Texas and Mexico; we are talking about more than 187 billion dollars just in 2017. We have to work very hard to improve our relationship even further and to increase trade because it will be for the benefit of both countries.

Some critics in Mexico say today, ‘you are selling your oil cheap to the United States and you buy gasoline very expensive’. That is not true. You can see it from another point of view. For us it is a very good market, a secure market, because they have been buying our oil for many years at a good price and then they can refine it for a cheaper price. Houston refines almost 40% of the gasoline that we buy in Mexico. So we get the best of the market, to sell our oil at a good price and buy gasoline for cheaper. Sometimes critics do not understand that producing gasoline in Mexico is more expensive than buying the gasoline here in Houston.

Another example, what would happen years 20 ago if Ford or Chevrolet didn’t move some factories to Mexico, they could not survive the ambition of the Asian car companies like, Toyota, Honda and all of those manufacturers that produce very cheap cars. What would happen to Ford, it would have disappeared! It almost happened with Chrysler. It almost disappeared because they could not compete against the cheaper Asian cars. Some of those companies moved to Mexico as part of the process, to reduce their production costs, and then they were able to sell their cars for better prices in the United States and compete with the other manufacturers.

Q: Tell us about your perspective on ways that Mexico-United States cooperation may be improved.

A: Let me give you an example on security. The Gulf of Mexico is almost closed like a lake, so whatever you do around this lake affects everybody, even Cuba. You have a crop of rice in New Orleans and you put fertilizer, all of the fertilizers go through the Gulf of Mexico and it affects everything.

In the southern part of Mexico, we do not have problem with criminals. You see kids in the streets, in the parks, you can drive by at night with your family and nothing happens.

First of all Mexican immigration has been negative for last three years. Many Mexicans are going back and it is not because of Trump, this trend started 3 years ago. Certain areas of Mexico are growing at a very good rate, particularly in the central and northern parts of Mexico, states like Nuevo León, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato or Queretaro.  They have been working in these areas of Mexico, their numbers are very attractive and people have been investing in the area. There is a huge demand of work and many people are choosing to go back to Mexico. The border area with the United States is quite different from the rest of the country. What you see at the border is another world.

I always make jokes about that say I am a ‘Fake Mexican’, because I don’t like soccer. We don’t drink Tequilla and we don’t listen to mariachis because in the southern part of Mexico, we don’t have that. In the Chiapas there is a soccer team. That is the last one but Tabasco, Yucatan and we are more like the Koreans, we play baseball.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing Mexico today?

A: I think the drug violence is Mexico’s biggest issue nowadays. I also think it is the most complicated because drugs in Mexico are not socially accepted. We also do not see anything wrong with alcohol. Here in the United States, people accept drugs and some states have even legalized marihuana.  There is a high demand for drugs in the United States and supply from Mexico and other countries. So, we are dealing with an issue in which we are neighbors to the biggest market for drugs and the drug cartels are well equipped with arms. I

Q: What type of support do you offer your nationals in this country?

A: We help individuals with the main document that I think is the best and that is the consular ID. If you are driving your car and you pass a red light and you do not have a valid license but you have this ID, that is accepted by the police, they just give you a ticket. If you do not have an ID then the police needs to take you into custody.

Q: How does the Mexican consulate support tourists while traveling to Mexico?

A: We have an office called the Mexico Tourism Board, which although is an independent organization its offices are located here at the Consulate, whose job is to promote Mexico for tourists. Mexico is a beautiful country that you can visit without any issues. What you see in the news doesn’t help.

Let me give you an example, New Orleans is a city that everyone wants to visit. However, New Orleans is the 2nd or 3rd most dangerous city in the United States, even though you have a lot of tourism in the city. I think that when you see the real numbers of the crime of Mexico’s tourist cities, they are quite lower than the American cities.

Q: What efforts are you making processing at the consulate quicker?

A: We have been working very hard to get the process moving quicker. Nowadays people are in and out of the Consulate in around 45 minutes.  If there is an issue, we find out quickly where exactly where the delays lie in our system, we review what is going on and address it. We train our officers to be more friendly with the costumers to create a better atmosphere.

We want everyone to know they can count on Mexico. We have one of the biggest Consulates in the world.  We want to remove the idea that people can trust in the Consulate’s office to handle almost any situation.

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