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Sunday, April 26, 2009

U.S. Consulate Meeting

U.S. CONSULATE GENERAL CALLS MEETING IN SAN CARLOS
By Lynn Prince

New U.S. Consulate General to the American Consulate in Hermosillo, John Breidenstine, made his first visit to San Carlos on February 20 to give an overview of U.S./Mexican relations and the current situation in Sonora.

A large crowd of over 200 people packed La Palapa restaurant to field questions to Breidenstine and his staff. Top on the list of questions was “just how safe is Sonora with the current drug problems at the border?” Breidenstine responded, along with Security Officer Gerry Mahoney, that infighting between the drug cartels exists at the border towns, but that travel back and forth to the States and San Carlos is safe on Highway 15. He quipped that the shoulder on the road causes more problems as a danger than the drug situation. He did caution that because of the dangerous shoulder on Highway 15 it was best not to travel at night and don’t drive at high speeds. Other tips: 1) use the cuota roads as they are policed by the Federal Police 2) don’t cross the border at Naco and Douglas as they are high-traffic areas for drug smuggling 3) use the buddy system—let a friend know when you are leaving and arriving to your destination. If they don’t receive a phone call from you when you reach your destination, then they contact authorities. Breidenstine went onto remark that San Carlos is considered one of the safest cities in all of Mexico. The latest TRAVEL ALERT issued by the U.S. Department of State, as of February 20, 2009, can be read on the Consulate's website.

Other questions included:

Dual Nationality – you can now obtain Mexican citizenship without losing United States citizenship. Some of the positives are that it allows foreigners to take part in the voting process in Mexico and work to establish good government. One can also do away with the yearly bank trust fees on properties, if a Mexican citizen.

Century Program – if you go back and forth across the border a great deal during the year, some of the long waits can be frustrating. So, a special lane has been created at the border where it takes only about 15 minutes to get through. After an application process and car inspection, a card is issued that is good for five years, which allows you to just zip through the border.

Long border waits can be eliminated by traveling on a weekday and very early in the morning. Also avoid Easter and Christmas holidays.

Residents of San Carlos were also encouraged to make several photocopies of their Passport, Drivers License, FM3 documents, etc., and keep them in a safe place in case of theft.

Military Stops – Consulate staff member, Charlene Robison, related how some residents have been detained at military stops and escorted to a Secondary Room with no windows while their cars were searched. She instructed that you need to remain calm, be nice and cooperate with the police and do not challenge their authority. All incidents reported came out just fine. The police are just doing their jobs.

Reminder – Americans and foreigners are subject to all Mexican laws. That means that you MUST have your Visa or FM3 stamped when leaving the country and when entering Mexico in compliance with immigration laws in the State of Sonora. Passports can be renewed at the American Consulate in Hermosillo for local residents.

Sonora Office of Tourism has set up a special number for tourists to report emergencies, register complaints and make other inquiries. That number is 01-800-716-2555.

Other topics of conversation were Hands Across the Border, an exchange program where U.S. and Mexican youth visit and learn what life is all about in the adjacent land.

Breidenstine also commented that he believes that having the former governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano, as Head of Homeland Security with the new administration will be a plus for Mexico and the U.S. in their fight against crime.

If local San Carlos or Guaymas residents have any questions regarding issues, Wardens have been assigned in San Carlos that act as representatives for the American Consulate. They are Kim Mac Donald, Veronica Mooney, and Heidi and Grant Grossman.

Visit the American Consulates website at www.hermosillo.usconsulate.gov
Telephone: (622) 289-3500
Location: Monterrey #141 Rosales Street and Galeana Col. Esqueda