EL PASO — Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott made no apologies Monday for his statements comparing public corruption on the border to conditions in third-world countries. Instead, he accused critics of his border policy of having their “heads in the sand” and said such corruption isn't unique to the border.
In his brief campaign stop at a warehousing business that facilitates cross-border commerce and trade, Abbott said corruption is a problem statewide.
“It doesn’t matter where you are in the state of Texas; public corruption does mimic third-world” practices, he said. The event, held near the Fort Bliss Army base, drew about a dozen supporters.
Abbott drew fire last week from elected officials who represent South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley after a speech in which he compared public corruption in South Texas to “third-world country practices.” Democrats said his comments placed a stain on the border. The border, they said, includes cities ranked among the safest in the country. Abbott acknowledged that El Paso has been ranked the safest city of its size for several years, but he said that was no reason to rest easy. He referred to the surging gang population across the state and said that gangs like the local Barrio Aztecas continue to influence some Texans who would not choose a life of crime if not for the lure of easy money.
Abbott's visit came during a highly publicized trial in El Paso of gang members accused in connection with the slaying of a U.S. consulate employee and her family in Juárez in 2010. Testimony in the trial reflects how the gang worked across the border to facilitate its nefarious deeds, the El Paso Times has reported.
Before Abbott even landed, El Paso state Rep. Mary González, D-Clint, and state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, slammed Abbott for his remarks and his border security proposal, which would cost near $300 million. Abbott’s plan includes a permanent, beefed-up Texas DPS force on the border, what he called a “continuous surge.” It also includes substantial resources for advanced air and land detection technology, and additional funding for more Texas Rangers to investigate public corruption.
“While he’s in El Paso, he should visit with the Texas border school superintendents, university presidents, health providers, small businesses and grassroots organizations,” Rodriguez said during a conference call. “To propose taking $300 million from other needs in the state to address a federal issue is fiscally irresponsible.”
González said Abbott’s comments were nothing more than pandering to the far right and unfair to what she said was a “tapestry” of blending cultures in border communities.
“He continues to exploit the border for political gain,” she said. “I am really proud to be a Texas but also equally proud to be from the border.”
Abbott also discussed his plans for additional crime-fighting initiatives, including more resources to combat domestic violence, so-called revenge porn and human trafficking. He was scheduled to meet with supporters during a private dinner before leaving El Paso.