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A Mexican customs facility planned for Kansas City’s inland port may have to be considered the sovereign soil of Mexico as part of an effort to lure officials in that country into cooperating with the Missouri development project.
Despite adamant denials by Kansas City Area Development Council officials, WND has obtained e-mails and other documents from top executives with the KCSmartPort project that suggest such a facility would by necessity be considered Mexican territory – despite its presence in the heartland of the U.S.
The documents were obtained with the assistance of Joyce Mucci, the founder of the Mid-America Immigration Reform Coalition, under the provisions of the Missouri Sunshine Law from the City of Kansas City, Mo., and from the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
The documents reveal a two-year campaign initiated in 2004 and managed by top SmartPort officials to win Mexico’s agreement to establish the Mexican customs facility within the Kansas City “inland port.” Kansas City SmartPort launched a concerted effort to advance the idea, holding numerous meetings with Mexican government officials in Mexico and in Washington to push the Mexican port idea in concert. The effort involved Missouri elected officials, including members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.
The documents make clear that Mexico demanded Kansas City pay all costs.
To date, the Kansas City Council has voted a $2.5 million loan to KC SmartPort to build the Mexican customs facility in the West Bottoms near Kemper Arena on city-owned land east of Liberty Street and mostly south of Interstate 670.
“Kansas City, Mo., is leasing the site to Kansas City SmartPort,” Tasha Hammes of the development council wrote to WND last month. “It will NOT be leased to any Mexican government agency or to be sovereign territory of Mexico.”
Yet, an e-mail written June 21, 2004, by Chris Gutierrez, the president of the KC SmartPort, stated that the Mexican customs office space “would need to be designated as Mexican sovereign territory and meet certain requirements.”
Even more recently, an e-mail dated March 10 of this year was sent by Gutierrez to a long list of recipients that left no doubt that KC SmartPort has not yet received federal government approval to move forward with the Mexican customs facility. Gutierrez informed the e-mail recipients that the processing a critical form, designated “C-175,” needs approval by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before the form is passed to the State Department for final approval. The processing and approval of the C-175 application is holding up the final approval of the Mexican customs facility.
In the same memo, Gutierrez reported on a recent meeting in Washington: “Both sides (U.S. and Mexican officials) met several weeks ago and the ‘document’ or as the U.S. refers to it the ‘C-175’ is near completion. This document is the basis for the procedural, regulatory, jurisdictional, etc. for the project. It defines what will happen and how and what laws, etc. allow this to happen. Both sides have put a lot of effort into this document.”
Gutierrez appeared concerned that the intensive lobbying done by KC SmartPort could be a wasted effort if the final U.S. government approvals were not completed before Mexico elected a new president this week.
“The process for the document is for U.S. Customs to present the document to the acting Commissioner and officials with the Dept of Homeland Security,” he wrote. “This will happen in March. The document will then be reviewed by the U.S. State Dept who has been consulted on the document all along so they are aware of it. State will make the recommendation on the diplomatic status of the Mexican officials and the documents fit with existing agreements, accords or treaties. Mexico will wait for this recommendation and then get the sign off of their Foreign Ministry (Secretary [Luis Ernesto] Derbez and Under Secretary [Geronimo] Gutierrez are well versed on the project and support it). The hope of both sides is that this will be completed before the Mexican presidential elections in July.”
Gutierrez’s March 10 e-mail ended by expressing a hope that discussion of the Mexican customs facility issue could be kept from the public, obviously concerned that press scrutiny might end up producing an adverse public reaction that could destroy the project. Gutierrez specifically proposes a low-profile strategy designed to keep the KC SmartPort and the Mexican customs facility out of public view.
“The one negative that was conveyed to us was the problems and pressure the media attention has created for both sides,” he wrote. “They want us to stop promoting the facility to the press. We let them know that we have never issued a proactive press release on this and that the media attention started when Commissioner (Robert) Bonner was in KC and met with Rick Alm. The official direction moving forward is that we can respond to the media with a standard response that I will send out on Monday and refer all other inquiries to U.S. Customs. I will get the name from them to refer media calls.”
Robert C. Bonner is the commissioner of CBP within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Rick Alm is a reporter for the Kansas City Star.
On May 16, Bonner addressed the Chamber of Commerce in Kansas City, saying the Mexican customs facility idea “could be enormously important to Kansas City and the surrounding area, and would – or should – facilitate trade for U.S. exporters by expediting the border clearance process for U.S. goods and products exported to Mexico.” Bonner added that “If the Kansas City SmartPort is implemented, Kansas City could become a major new trade link between the U.S. and Mexico.”
Among those copied on Gutierrez’s e-mail of March 10, 2006, was George D. Blackwood, the president of NASCO (North America’s Super Corridor Coalition, Inc.). Blackwood is an attorney with Blackwood, Langworthy & Tyson in Kansas City. He also served as the former chairman of the North American International Trade Corridor Partnership, which he helped found in 1998 when he was serving as mayor pro tem of Kansas City. NASCO supports the Kansas City SmartPort’s initiative to establish a Mexican customs facility as part of the NASCO SuperCorridor project.