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Tijuana Tourism Merchants Say Screening Could be Catastrophic

Tijuana merchants who cater to tourists are worried Mexico's plan to screen all cars headed south into Tijuana will be another blow to their business. They estimate sales have dropped 80 percent since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson has more.

Mexican customs officials say screening cars is a matter of national security and they'll be looking for contraband like cash and guns.

Few dispute Mexico's decision to crack down. However, many commuters, analysts and businessmen on both sides of the border take issue with how Mexico will do it.

Julian Palombo is president of a group of Tijuana tourist businesses. He says Mexico must add seven southbound lanes at San Ysidro or the massive traffic jams will drive tourists away.

"Some Tijuana merchants have already left, and gone to San Diego swap meets and to find the clients who don't cross the border anymore," Palombo says.

He also says one man who sold Mexican trinkets recently closed the last of his eight shops and now sells cars in San Diego.

City officials in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where customs is already screening cars, say the program causes long waits during rush hour and weekends.

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