January 9, 2004

BC and Tijuana Offended by Portrayal of City in US State Department Report

A number of Mexican border newspapers have published stories on January 7, 2003 about a US State Department travel report that singles out Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo as particularly dangerous cities. While an article in the Cd. Juárez newspaper El Diario only summarizes the November 2002 report, the Tijuana newspaper Frontera gives official reaction to the State Department’s portrayal of that city.

Most upsetting to Mexican officials was the statement that bystanders in Tijuana are in danger of getting caught in drug-related shootings in public places, even during daytime hours. 

Baja California Governor Eugenio Elorduy Walther called the State Department report both unjust and irresponsible. “There are situations over there [in the US] that are of grave concern and we as Mexicans could go around saying that it’s not good to go there, but all of this comes from a mindset that we consider to be totally unacceptable,” Elorduy stated. 

Elorduy also pointed out that United States has had school shootings and tragedies in restaurants and other places but Mexican officials do not make statements about people in the US shooting each other.  

While being interviewed on a local radio show, the governor said that he will request that Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Derbez intervene to defend Tijuana. 

Baja California Attorney General Antonio Martínez Luna disputed the factual basis of the report stating since Elorduy took office there have been no street battles between drug traffickers. Martínez also said that the State Depart-ment’s report might just be a way to keep tourism out of Tijuana. 

Luis Alonso Morlett, a Tijuana city official, stated that Tijuana has the same problems that other cities have. He mentioned that Los Angeles, California has gang fights but that would not be a reason to qualify the city as unsafe. 

Below follows some of the language from the November 2002 Consular Information Sheet that offended BC officials: 

“Visitors to border cities such as Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez, and Nuevo Laredo should remain alert and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Visitors are very vulnerable when visiting the local “red light districts,” particularly if they are departing alone in the early hours of the morning. Municipal and traffic police are aware of the danger and regularly check the area for persons carrying weapons or drugs and for drunk drivers. Nonetheless, Americans can still fall victim to crime in these districts.”

“U.S. citizens should be aware that innocent bystanders are at risk from the increase in drug-related violence in the streets of border cities. In Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, shootings have taken place at busy intersections during daylight hours. In Ciudad Juarez, several U.S. citizens, including innocent bystanders, have been killed in drug-related shootings over the past three years. Some of these shootings have taken place on principal thoroughfares and outside popular restaurants and other public places, including convenience stores, a currency exchange, a gas station, and recently outside shopping malls and in middle and upperclass neighborhoods.”

The full report, which also singles out Mexico City and Cancún, can be seen at http://travel.state.gov/mexico.html

Reprinted from Frontera NorteSur from a story by Manuel Villegas, Frontera

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