By Alberto Garcia
A handful of protesters wearing face masks and holding “STAY AT HOME” signs used their cars to block traffic from entering Mexico at the Nogales port of entry on Wednesday for fear of COVID-19 infections from the US.
Protesters were expressing their concerns over the lack of testing for the coronavirus for people entering Mexico from the US where COVID-19 cases have now surpassed the confirmed cases in China and Italy. The US has over 83,000 cases and 1,201 deaths while Mexico has only reported 475 cases with 6 deaths.
The incident occurred on the Mexican side of the border between the twin cities both named Nogales, located about 200 south of Phoenix. The two cities share a border crossing but are vastly different in populations; Nogales, Arizona has approximately 21,000 residents while its Mexican neighbor has a population of over 220,000.
The comparison among the immediate areas on each side of the Nogales border tells a similar story of disproportionate coronvirus cases.
Arizona has reported 400 cases and 6 deaths statewide, while Sonora, the Mexican state to the South, has only reported six cases and no deaths, and none of those cases are along the border region.
The group that organized the protest, called “Sonorenses por la Salud y la Vida” (Sonorans for Health and Life) say their actions were the “first warning” for Mexico’s President, Andres Manuel López Obrador.
“There are no health screenings by the federal government to deal with this pandemic,” he said. “That’s why we’re here in Nogales. We’ve taken this action to call on the Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to act now.”
The group is demanding that Mexico institute temporary ban on visits for tourism and minor medical procedures in Mexico for people crossing from the US, as well as health screenings of everybody crossing the border for symptoms of COVID-19.
“This is for your health. This is for your family,” Hernandez said. “Or what do you want to happen? That this becomes worse given the irresponsibility of the Mexican government? Of course not. That’s why were here,” he added.
The group’s protest comes after the the US restricted travel from Mexico to “essential” traffic, but in reality it only limited northbound visitors for recreation and tourism by non-US citizens. Americans can still travel freely across the border.
Mexico, however, has does not currently restrict any travel from the US.
The ‘Sonores’ group warned that it would organize similar protests in the future if Mexico’s government does not act.