Que Pasa in Baja?

BY: OLIVER QUINTERO

US lends a hand. US Department of State representatives visited Baja a few days ago in order to improve security on both sides of the border as a part of the Merida Initiative.

Elizabeth Williams, representing the US Department of State, pointed out that lots of improvements are seen in Baja regarding intelligence systems, communications, emergency response and the training programs for new police officers.

The US government has been active with the Mexican police academy teaching courses about combating drug trafficking, crime scene processing, investigating on the internet, first responders, combatting gang activities and any other mayhem.

The Merida Initiative is a highly controversial security cooperation agreement between the US, Mexico and Central America that started in 2008 in order to combat drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, and money laundering.

Trash piling up. There has been a major problem with the city trash service lately in Ensenada, with some neighborhoods complaining that it takes up to two weeks for the trash truck to come around. The city is whining that some of the trucks broke down and that they are waiting on some funds from the state government to buy a couple new trucks and be on schedule again.

Add this to the huge water problem and you have neighborhoods that pile up the trash and have no water to clean anything, the perfect formula for disease.

Recently city officials came under fire for putting signs on trash cans along First Street (the tourist area), that said “Tourism Use Only”. When asked, they said they placed the signs so businesses wouldn’t throw their trash in there and that they didn’t mean that locals couldn’t drop their trash in those cans.

New border crossing. The Mexican government built a fancy new pedestrian border crossing from San Ysidro to Tijuana. People who crossed the border into Mexico uninterrupted before now will be stopped my Mexican officials with separate lines for Mexican citizens and tourists who will be asked for a passport, to fill out a form and a $20 dollar payment (only if they are staying more than a week in Mexico), although authorities already said that if lines become clogged up they will just let everyone through to avoid long waiting times.

Better late than never. The Mexican government just announced the creation of a specialized unit in charge of investigating copyright crimes on the internet. Arturo Ancona, who is in charge of the copyright crimes office, said that the feds have just focused on piracy of physical media and that it’s time to adjust to the new realities. The US government has been fighting digital piracy since around 1998 with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and with new laws almost every year that protect content producers.

Watch out for the heat. Due to the high temperatures that have been recorded lately, the civil protection office released a statement telling people to play it safe, don’t stay in the heat for long times, drink plenty of fluids, use sunscreen and a whole list of other common sense things. The reason they are pushing this info to us is because there has been an increase of heat stroke cases reported and they say is mostly because, since we are not used to high temperatures, we don’t take the usual precautions that other people that are used to them would. Yada, yada, yada.

More city limits trouble. Three city workers were taken by the Ensenada police in Santa Anita when they painted over the Ensenada city logos on a wall in order to paint the Rosarito logo there. Rosarito Mayor, Silvano Abarca was present at the bandit paint job, and a big fight ensued between Rosarito and Ensenada supporters and authorities. Rosarito said that they were suing the Ensenada authorities for human right violations in the arrest. This feud has been going on for years now and it seems that the local congress, which would be the only one able to solve the problem and set the city limits confusion straight, is not willing to do it because of risk of losing popularity on taking a side. Same shit, different country.

More money. Tijuana businesses on Revolucion Street, the famous tourist street in TJ, have reported sales increases of at least 10%. Julian Palombo, president of the business association of said street, said they have seen an increase in tourists coming that they say is due to a better exchange rate for their dollars, an increase in security perception in Baja, and a faster border crossing into the US.

Terminal Real Estate. Juan Saldaña, one of the advisors for the medical cluster in Baja (which groups companies that offer medical services), said they have seen an increase of real estate sales in the coastal areas for the terminally ill.

“The terminally ill prefers to come here and buy a condo and stay here while getting alternative medicine treatment instead of having to drive back and forth each time they have an appointment”. Saldaña said.

American citizens looking for alternative treatment, that most of the time is illegal in the United States, cross the border into Mexico to get treated for terminal diseases like cancer.

Bodycams in TJ. Around 70% of police officers in TJ have active body cameras that record everything they do. This amounts to around 1,500 cameras that authorities hope will reduce corruption as well as police abuses.

The head of the public security office in Tijuana, Alejandro Lares, said they also have a data bank that allows them to store all of the material recorded with the cameras.

This and other efforts are being done by the Tijuana government in order to regain the trust of tourists which seem to be giving good results. This past 4th of July, Tijuana received around 60,000 visitors, a number that had not been seen in Tijuana in the last 10 years.