May 23, 2008

Violence killing Rosarito tourism industry

By Mariana Martínez

Despite the strong campaign to improve Rosarito’s image, deeds can speak louder than words during this week prior to Memorial Day weekend.

The recent events can be disastrous to merchants, hotel and bar owners who for the past year have endured one of the worst sales seasons in 20 years.

“Everything on the road is empty,” says Esperanza Frías, who owns a gift shop in the Rosarito-Ensenada highway. “With so much violence and crime, the house crisis in the US, how would I be able to support myself?”.

Just last Sunday police found 4 bodies, one of witch belonged to a US citizen who had a missing persons report, and early Tuesday, a US Marine was wounded by Mexican authorities when he refused to stop at a military checkpoint.

The four bodies where found on a dirt road and iside a new green Cadillac with California license plates, in an area known as El Morro.

The area is several miles outside the tourist area of Rosarito, and is mainly visited by hunters and surfers, but its also an area where cocaine and marihuana pass drugs on their way to the United States.

The State Justice Commission has identified the American woman as Libby Gianna Craig, a La Mesa, California, resident, who had her passport and California drivers license when they found her body.

According to Rosarito mayor, Hugo Torres, two of the diseased had prior crime convictions and where linked to drug trafficking.

Torres doesn’t deny the negative impact of the case, but assures the public there is no indication any of the dead are tourists.

“If the case was about tourist then it would be very negative, but the investigation has lead to the belief that they where not tourists”, said Torres, “there have been some other murders of foreigners, but they have all had some links with organized crime, im not saying this is the case, but the investigation is pointing that way.”

Two days after the gruesome discovery, ,members of the Mexican Army fired against a US Marine early Tuesday, at a Popotla check point, after he failed to obey orders to stop the car he was driving.

Joshua Kendall Monnett, who said he is a US citizen was aboard a Dodge Ram 2500 with Arizona license plates number 701 WDZ. When officers inspected the vehicle, they say to have found an M-16, a bullet-proof vest and ammunition.

The 24 year old navy officer was wounded in an eye by shattered glass, broken by the at least 20 bullets that where fired.

According to mayor Torres, the US citizen tried to flee the scene after going the wrong way on a highway traveling South to North.

Kendall was taken to Tijuana General Hospital for care, where he was visited by US Consulate personnel.

Because of the findings in his car, the hospital was secured by federal agents and patients had to wait long hours to get medical care.

After his medical discharge, Kendall got out on bail, —paid by US naval officers—and he is back at Camp Pendelton, but he could be charged with possession of a high power weapon.

A few weeks back, Tijuana authorities had announced the US Marines had lifted a ban for officers to cross to Mexico during their days off.

The ban had been in place for a couple of years.

The Rosarito mayor applauded the measure, that could bring hundreds of officers to the tourist town, but Torres was clear, “they can’t come here to commit crimes”.

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