November 10, 2006

Project focuses on Tijuana drinking problems

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

A binational border project is trying to promote responsible drinking habits in Tijuana, especially since this is a popular tourist destination for drinking alcoholic beverages.

The Binational Policy Council / Consejo Binacional de Iniciativas, a project sponsored by the San Diego non-profit Institute for Public Strategies, aims to generate collaborative solutions to cross-border alcohol and drug problems, in particular among underage youth that crosses the border to Tijuana to drink alcohol.

One of the major goals of the council is to try to change the image that San Diego tourists have of Tijuana as an open bar city, said BPC’s Mexico coordinator Maria Antonieta Olvera.

“There’s a correlation between the number of car accidents and the hours bars are open,” she said.

According to statistics from the Council, in Tijuana in 2005, car accidents that involved drunk driving caused 129 deaths and 2,310 injured persons. In Baja California, the number of deaths was 2,132.

Tijuana is going in the right direction, Olvera said, citing the recent reduction of extra hours for the selling of alcohol. The limit now is 3 a.m. throughout the city.

The Binational Policy Council is working with local authorities and the private sector to implement responsible alcohol policies. Olvera said that the council has worked for almost three years with Ceturmex, Tijuana’s business and tourist committee.

“Now is the moment to change directions and move towards a more structured environment that provides entertainment without the excessive consumption of alcohol,” said Ceturmex president, Dr. Jack Dorsón. “Baja California is much more than tequila and shots, and this is the time to change our environment to build a healthier, safer, more prosperous Baja California.”

Olvera added that alcohol-related problems affect business in downtown Tijuana near the major tourist areas.

She said that the Council is working with different public organizations and government agencies to improve the image of the historic downtown area.

“We’re trying to attract tourists who not only come here to drink,” she said. “We want to improve the quality of tourism.”

And it’s not about getting rid of alcohol, but about learning how to drink responsibly, Dorsón said.

“We tell our community to drink with responsibility,” he said. “It’s not about banning alcohol, but instead, to implement better practices of selling alcohol in order to make it more safe and healthy.”

Although many San Diegans might say that what happens in Tijuana stays in Tijuana, the reality is that many of the automobile accidents in San Diego are related to people who cross the border to drink in Tijuana, said Dan Skiles, with the Institute for Public Strategies.

“Do you know how many people go to Tijuana and get drunk and then come back driving to San Diego?” he said. “Do you know how many accidents this people cause?”

That’s why he said that citizens of both sides of the border should get involved in this issue.

“We’re looking for ways to solve these problems,” Skiles said.

If you would like to find out more about this project, visit the Binational Policy Council / Consejo Binacional de Iniciativas webpage at www.binationalpolicycouncil.org.

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