BAJA CALIFORNIA — Focusing heavily on the legacy of the state and the need to improve public services, Baja California Governor Jaime Bonilla spoke in Tijuana for the first time as governor at the city’s cultural center on Friday evening after taking office Nov. 1
In his hourlong speech, Bonilla promised Baja California would start providing hot breakfasts to children in school immediately, and stop contaminated water from flowing across Mexico’s northern border into Imperial Beach within six months.
“I am full of gratitude and I am not going to fail you,” Bonilla told an audience of several hundred that filled both levels of the auditorium at the CECUT, the Centro Cultural Tijuana.
After swearing in his state cabinet Friday evening, Bonilla spoke mostly about public services, like education, transportation and public safety, emphasizing what he described as an embarrassing legacy left by an opposing political party, the National Action Party, the PAN.
“The outgoing government leaves huge debts to contractors,” said Bonilla.
Baja California has long been a stronghold of the PAN, but the former administration was tarnished by allegations of corruption and persistent waves of violence in Tijuana. The party lost the governorship for the first time in almost 30 years in the June elections.
“I’m going to tell you. After 30 years of deception, 30 years of lies and false promises, enough!” Bonilla declared to loud applause.
José Luis Ovando Patrón, president of the state steering committee for the PAN in Baja California, responded that his political party has left Baja California as the best state to live in.
“As a party, we will be a responsible opposition and we will watch over your rights … and we will firmly point out illegalities, corruption and lies when they come forward,” said Ovando.
Bonilla’s political party, the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), was founded in 2014 by Mexico’s leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is a close political ally of the new governor.
The 68-year-old engineer, born in Tijuana, served for 12 years as an elected official for the Otay Water District in Chula Vista. First elected in Chula Vista in 2000, he left his post in 2012 to campaign for then-presidential candidate López Obrador.
In June, Bonilla was elected governor of Baja California with a 27-point margin ahead of his closest opponent.
“I come from a family of migrants,” said Bonilla, during his speech, promising to also make improvements for people who come to Baja California looking for better opportunities. Specifically, Bonilla promised to open up a bus line from the Mariano Matamoros neighborhood, where many migrants live, to the center of the city, where many work.
He took his oath of office at 1 a.m. Friday in Mexicali, the state’s capital.
The new governor takes office amid controversy over his term length, after the state’s legislature voted to extend his term from two years to five years, shortly after he was elected.
Critics said the Baja California legislature set a dangerous precedent that representatives could extend or reduce term lengths based on whether or not the election results were favorable to them.
A Supreme Court justice declined this week to issue an injunction stopping Bonilla’s inauguration.
The president of the National Executive Committee of the National Action Party filed an appeal with Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation last week in a last-ditch effort to stop Bonilla from taking office.
During his inaugural address in Tijuana, Bonilla told a story he often repeated on the campaign trail about a young boy, who was about 6, who stopped Bonilla during a campaign event.
Bonilla said he asked the boy if he wanted a campaign pin, and when the boy replied “no,” Bonilla asked him what he wanted.
“One shoe,” Bonilla said the boy replied. The then-candidate looked down and saw the boy had only one shoe on his foot as he walked on city streets.
“One shoe!” Bonilla repeated. “In what kind of world do we live in that children are walking around with one shoe?”