La prensa

Going South?

Created: 24 July, 2009
Updated: 13 September, 2023
3 min read

 Two hours in the scorching heat. The endless line of cars is unbearable, nothing is moving except inside the metal cans holding restless passengers hostage, fighting their way to move through just four lanes.

 No, this is not a description of the border wait going north, but about the futile intent of thousands of residents trying to go back to Tijuana from California.

 In the past few weeks, coming back to Tijuana from San Diego has been as torturous as the South to North trip, minus the burrito and shaved ice street vendors.

 This is because the Mexican government is putting up new technology at the border , called Vehicle Verification System (Siave for short) . The system allows for each car to be scanned for guns, ammo, drugs and other contraband, while checking weight and taking a picture of the car license plates.

 But in order to put the system in place, authorities have closed two out of the five lanes of Puerta México, right by the San Ysidro Port of Entry.

“If the system makes the cars stop for just 10 seconds, and we already have border waits of over two hours without the cars stoping; we think this might double the current waiting time” said Cesar Sánchez, president of the Zona Norte Business Association.

 Rosangela Payan, graphic designer for a local TV station, remembers her ordeal last week trying to get home after work. She was held up more than two hours. “The wait to enter Mexico started by the Dairy Mart freeway exit” she said, “after an hour wait I had not moved a mile and I was losing it; It got to the point I had to put my left hand outside the vehicle with my keys, threatening to scratch the car of those who were trying to cut… Its insane to live like this.”

 But the Mexican government efforts to tighten security have not only caused complaints amongst Binational commuters, but by business leaders and restaurateurs who say the measure affects the already weakened tourist sector, pollutes an already contaminated area and does little to deter criminal actions.

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 “If this keeps up, we are going to have to march” said Julián Palombo, Tourism president of the Tijuana Chapter of the National Chamber of Commerce (Canaco), “we are well aware of the problem with crime, but this measure just comes to affect us in our hardest times.”

 According to business leaders, the long waits to come to Tijuana have caused US tourists to think twice before coming down. And even Tijuana born people who now live in San Diego are increasingly deciding not to come to Tijuana to visit, shop and get services.

 Francisco Villegas Peralta, regional vice-president of the National Restaurant Chamber, considers the installation of such technology to be the wrong approach to the regional problem, especially before investing in proper infrastructure, by creating at least a dozen lane entries into Tijuana.

“We believe the technology is going to become obsolete very fast, because “bad guys” will always find ways to import illegal stuff” said Villegas, “ I would rather the government investing in intelligence reports, vigilance, but not in taking illogical actions that affect honest hard working citizens.”

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