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      SB city officials embark on controversial trip to China

      Some 19,000 miles from San Benito is Shenzhen in China.

      Manuel Lara has been invited to attend an International Conference on Urban Development and Innovation at the major port city near Hong Kong.

      Lara is optimistic about the trip and when Action 4 News asked him what does China want with San Benito he responded, "Why not San Benito."

      The city manager and mayor leave Sunday on the trip aimed at putting San Benito, along with the rest of the Rio Grande Valley, on the map for what Manuel calls "international business opportunities". "We're trying to assist our community with the creation of jobs," said Lara. "Instead of continuing increasing hardships for our families."

      Not everyone sees it that way.

      Alfonso Benavides is a self-proclaimed community watch dog who thinks the city's top administrator shouldn't be paid to embark on a trek that won't likely net any results.

      Action 4 News asked Benavides what he sees the trip as and he responded, "I see it as a two-week vacation."

      He believes the trip amounts to nothing more than smoke and mirrors for the Chinese to push their products on the city.

      "Is China expecting something back, said Benavides. You're talking about a trip that could incur possibly between $10,000 to $20,000."

      The city manager said the trip will only cost taxpayers about $2,000 thanks to the Chinese picking up the tab.

      A publicity packet added about a thousand dollars to the city's cost, but Manuel said they needed one anyway to showcase why San Benito makes a great location for businesses abroad.

      "We are very fortunate in Cameron County to have deep sea ports, to have international airports and to have a road that will connect the United States to Mexico and Canada." said Lara.

      San Benito will join other Texas city leaders on the trip.

      It TMs a trip deemed both controversial and crucial all in one.

      "It doesn't pass the smell test for me," said Benavides. City leaders depart on Sunday afternoon from Valley International Airport in Harlingen.

      They TMll be joined by the mayor from Valle Hermosa in Mexico.

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