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The U.S.-Mexico Border Governors Conference starts tomorrow in Ensenada with both high hopes and major fears.

The event has been held annually for more than two decades, intended to help governors of the four U.S. and six Mexican border states bridge the cavernous cultural and political gaps separating the two adjacent countries.

Security is expected to be extra heavy around the posh Hotel Coral y Marina, where the event is set to be held.

"Each of the Hotel’s 147 suites has an ocean-view private balcony with breathtaking vistas that provide a spectacular experience to visitors during their stay in Ensenada," according to the conference's website.

In recent years, the event has mirrored the strife generated by the breakdown of Mexican law and order in the face of the growing power of the drug cartels, as well the failure of both countries to come to terms over immigration issues.

Last year, Arizona GOP Gov. Jan Brewer cancelled the event (set to be hosted in her state) after Mexican governors announced a boycott to protest her signing of Arizona's SB 1070.

New Mexico Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson then held an alternative event for the Mexican governors in his state.

This year, Brewer has vowed to be in Ensendada, despite 2010's snub.

New Mexico's new GOP Gov. Susana Martinez says she'll also attend.

That leaves governors of the two biggest states: California's Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and Rick Perry of Texas, currently running for the GOP's presidential nomination, neither of whom, barring a last-minute change of plans, seems likely to show,

This year's host is José Guadalupe Osuna Millán, governor of Baja California

With its armed guards and pageantry, critics accuse the conference of becoming less relevant in the drug war era, with bodies hung from overpasses and dramatic murders of bloggers and journalists.

Shannon K. O'Neil, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, has an interesting analysis of past and future conferences in her blog today:

"The influx of hundreds of staffer and activists has made the process much more cumbersome, and reduced the intimacy and spirit of cooperation that guided the conference in the past.

"Reduced in large part to the signing of agreements and photo opportunities, many governors (particularly from the United States) began skipping the event.

"Rather than covering the gamut [of issues], the agenda should be streamlined to emphasize a few vital issues. It must enable leaders to actually meet and discuss the serious challenges facing their states and constituencies, re-energizing the consultative element of the event.

"Most pressing today is security, where policy so far has been guided from the center, even though the effects are concentrated on the border."

Pictured: Jerry Brown, Rick Perry

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