Friday, January 25, 2008

Come back to Baja: Baja Government attempts to repair damaged image.

Free fish tacos, no grumpy locals and all the tequila you can drink! Check out the article below, seems like the carjackings, police extortions and bad press has had a serious effect on tourism down there. While I'm not sure about the free comida and tequila (and anybody who surfs San Miguel knows the locals aren't leaving) I am starting to believe that it's gotten bad enough for the local government to take some steps in the right direction instead of just denying that anything bad is going on.

Are they there yet? In my opinion, no. Like I said before I'm not heading back until my sources confirm a heavy army presence in the area- everybody knows the local cops are on the take- I want to see those up armored Humvees cruising the toll road with the .50 cal locked and loaded.


Officials aim to create 'safe zone' for tourists

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
January 20, 2008
TIJUANA – As reports of violence in Baja California take a heavy economic toll on key tourist destinations, officials say they are working to increase security along well-traveled roads and in shopping districts frequented by U.S. visitors.

The federal government has stepped up patrols on the toll road between Tijuana and Ensenada, while the state has posted officers at the entrances and exits, said Oscar Escobedo Carignan, Baja California's tourism secretary. The federal Angeles Verdes tourist assistance police also has an increased presence in the area.

Municipal governments are banding together to create a “safe zone” for tourists from the San Ysidro border crossing to south of the port of Ensenada, along a coastal strip where assaults have occurred. They are revamping their tourist police to focus on areas such as downtown Rosarito Beach and Tijuana's Avenida Revolución.

Though not the only factors, extortions by police officers and attacks on tourists last year helped drive down the number of visitors to the state by nearly 2 million, said Escobedo, from 20.3 million in 2006 to 18.6 million in 2007. Though violence in Tijuana this week has not targeted tourists, promoters worry that the reports could further discourage visitors to the state. Escobedo and other government officials claim that a series of government measures has drastically reduced the numbers of incidents against tourists since Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán took office Nov. 1 and five new mayors were sworn in Dec. 1. The newly elected officials have vowed an unprecedented front with President Felipe Calderón's administration against organized crime and police corruption.

Tourism is a key industry for Baja California, creating close to 9 percent of jobs in the state and accounting for 11 percent of its revenues, Escobedo said. In Rosarito Beach, Mayor Hugo Torres said 70 percent of the 130,000 residents who work in the city depend either directly or indirectly on tourism.

Rosarito Beach has especially suffered from the drop in tourism revenue over the past year, Torres said.

“Thirty percent is the official figure that is used, but in many cases it's more than 50 percent,” Torres said from his second-floor office at Rosarito Beach City Hall. Occupancy of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, which Torres owns, has fallen between 30 percent and 40 percent, he said.

The city's 149-member police force became a subject of scrutiny last month after gunmen attacked its headquarters, reportedly intending to kill Jorge Eduardo Montero Álvarez, Rosarito Beach's director of public safety. His bodyguard was killed. The entire force was subsequently disarmed as the officers and their firearms undergo background checks. In the interim, state and federal police have been leading routine patrols in the city, and Torres claims that reports of tourist extortions have ceased.

Torres is creating a 30-member tourist police force to be based in the offices of the city's Conventions and Tourism Committee and responsible for patrolling areas frequented by visitors. In addition, he said he is equipping 120 volunteers with radios so they can report suspicious activity in the tourist areas, and give the volunteers a non-police contact to call.

Baja California's tourism secretariat has hired its own watchdog to oversee the road between the San Ysidro border and the entrance to the toll road in Playas de Tijuana.

“If somebody is stopped by a police officer, he (the watchdog) walks up to the police officer, and says, 'I am here to serve as an interpreter,' ” said Escobedo, the tourism secretary. (I would love to be there when this happens!)

While many visitors have been canceling their visits to the state, Tom Mitchell said he is continuing to lead tours down the Baja California peninsula.

“We never drive in the dark. It's just thinking safe,” said Mitchell, an East County resident. “If you're an American traveling down, we recommend that you caravan with somebody else.”

Carlsbad resident Kathy Berlin was in Rosarito Beach last week with her sister and a friend, spending three nights together at a house she and her husband have owned for 11 years.

When the friends drove to Ensenada, they made sure to stay close to another vehicle, the retired insurance agent said.

“I don't like what's going on,” she said of the current wave of violence. But I'm still here. I still love it.”

I'd like to go back- the place has huge potential. We'll see....

7 comments:

Gabe Amaya said...

Agreed in so many ways, me being someone who hasn't gone on a surf trip and getting into SUP and now hearing the closest and cheapest (cost wise) place has gone and turned somebodies Grand Theft Auto video game dream into a reality...it's crazy I agree with the armored humvees 100% definetly needs to happen!

srfnff said...

Good report John, I had no idea that the corruption had spread so far into the infrastructure that events like this were happening..."The city's 149-member police force became a subject of scrutiny last month after gunmen attacked its headquarters, reportedly intending to kill Jorge Eduardo Montero Álvarez, Rosarito Beach's director of public safety. His bodyguard was killed. The entire force was subsequently disarmed..."

I read just the other day that at least five local police agencies all up and down the US/Mex border are being disarmed and replaced with Federales.

When I lived in SD over 40 years ago, I visited Mexico (TJ) all the time, for surfing, drinking, carousing and other forms of high cultural edifications. It's ironic that all those years ago, even then we knew never to travel at night. Things still haven't changed.

PS - Good luck getting Mahi 1 back from Mash. You'll have to pry it out of his cold, dead hands, etc. etc...that session we had last Sunday sealed the deal.

John Ashley said...

Hey Gary-
Yeah, I thought that particular article was a little telling. I really do want to do my little cross border day trips but since this blogging thing has made me into a millionaire I've been rolling in a nice, new, shiny 4x4 that's basically a "take me" sign on it. So.... I'll wait a little while longer.

As for my Mike and the Mahi- I'm happy it's working out. Sounds like you may be in the hunt for something new. I like the looks of your current board- maybe if you came down a little in tail volume you could sink that rail? Keep us posted!

John Ashley said...

Hey Gabe- wait 'til you go on that first trip and score waves all to yourself- you'll be hooked. Saw you get a couple of fun ones today, keep it up! And funny comment about it becoming somebody's idea of GTA come to life. Hah!

srfnff said...

New board? Nice but $$$. I keep reading all the posts and watching the usual suspects...Sways and SUZ. Listening to those who know. 9'6" rounded pin pulled nose five fin X 4.5" shaped by someone who knows how...tasty!

Anonymous said...

what the may-hi is no longer available got cold hard cash.green color same as the may-hi.captneg.9

John Ashley said...

The deal's been done Cap.Neg9, but I do know the guy you could get a nice new shiny one from- so far there are 4 similar Stamps 10'0s in SD waters- I'd recommend ordering one NOW!