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Mexican Officials Working To Lure U.S. Tourists To Baja

Aired 12/12/11 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Juan Benjamin Tintos Funcke, Baja California Secretary of Tourism


Heading south of the border to shop for the holidays or taking a New Year's vacation at a Baja Beach are activities many San Diegans used to enjoy as a tradition. But for the past several years, fears of drug cartel violence have kept people away from Tijuana and Baja California.

The Mexican tourism bureau is trying to change that with a new campaign aimed at convincing Americans that Baja is safe and fun. But the message still faces an uphill battle.


What is Baja?

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Avatar for user 'cmcouturier'

cmcouturier | December 12, 2011 at 2:28 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Less than 24 hours ago I was the victim of a $200 shakedown by two Mexican police officers on the streets of Tecate, Mexico. I am a USA citizen and had been in Ensenada for a couple of weeks on vacation. On my way to the border crossing yesterday I was pulled over on trumped up traffic charges. One uniformed policeman talked to me while his partner waited in the police vehicle. I was told I would have to go to the police station, wait "probably a few hours", go before a judge, pay a fine of probably 2,000 pesos. Did I have 2,00 pesos? He instructed me on how to get to the police station, escorted me there and, after I had parked my car, offered to "take care of it himself". I was pretty shaken up so it took me a while but I finally got the picture. And he got my $200. We've decided not to invite our friend to join us in Ensenada. My mother has decided not to renew her passport. She'll see the grandkids when we get home.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 12, 2011 at 8:01 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

I can't speak for some cops in Tecate but in Tijuana there is a number for tourists (information, emergency) which is 078. I'm sure Tecate has one too.

I cross many times but since about 2006 or 2007 only on foot.

Do you have Mexican auto insurance?

What do you drive down there? Something that is going to attract attention?

My car was once searched back then (for no apparent reason) in a not too well lit parking lot near the Otay entry. They asked me the usual questions. I was asked if I had a laptop(???) One of the two cops tried to fold down my back seat, but when he couldn't he gave up and said I was okay to go. It could have been verrrrrrrrrrrrry easy for them to plant something, there at night, in the dark, HAD they been dirty cops or ask me for money. Probably just a little paranoid or overly suspicious which up to a point is understandable.

You have to be emotionally mature enough to understand that one bad experience is unlikely to duplicate itself. It's not a common sense reason for not returning or not renewing a passport. I had a very bad experience with CV cops twice and I did not move out of CV.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 12, 2011 at 8:02 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

I think the tourism bureau is being a little desingenous. First things first, gentlemen.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 13, 2011 at 10:58 a.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

What a inappropriate and even dangerous advertising campaign.

If you travel to Baja your are risking not just your wallet and vehicle, but your life. The Mexican Tourism Bureau should be ashamed, but then they only see Americans as dollar signs, not people.

If you want good Mexican food, entertainment, and culture, we have it right here in San Diego...and you're supporting the local economy.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | December 13, 2011 at 2:07 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm staying out of Mexico until they get their act together. They don't like it? They can win the drug war, stop the beheadings, kidnappings, corruption, and all the baggage they created for themselves. Deal with it.

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Avatar for user 'KTB'

KTB | December 15, 2011 at 5:44 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

No one should be surprised that the Secretary of Tourism is speaking out on behalf of his state. Nor should anyone think he is saying that all crime has been eliminated.

However some of these comments are silly. The crime rate has gone way down since 2008. Over 2 million Americans live full time in Mexico... some 50,000 in northern Baja alone. It is interesting to note that those OF US who live here are not having the problems imagined. No shake-downs, and certainly no murders. Not a single innocent foreign resident or tourist has been involved in drug cartel violence. Not one.

But we are not blind... crime does exist. Fear allows an innocent tourist to fall prey to a corrupt cop... but those of us who live here are not afraid to call a cop's bluff and politely say, 'okay, let me see the judge.' But to be honest, I have not heard of these incidents in ages, even though it can happen.

But let's just be fair... there are lots of ways to be victimized on both sides of the border and some are using old information to paint Mexico with a very broad brush. Baja is safe, and easy to visit without problems. If you are pre-disposed to be a victim, then Kansas awaits... and that's okay.

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Avatar for user 'bajalady'

bajalady | December 15, 2011 at 6:16 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

I have lived in Ensenada for 35 years without a problem and without fear of my life. I am 79 years old. .There is violence every place in the world. my advice for what its worth, just be aware of your surroundings and as anyplace you visit stay out of questionable areas. but please don't be afraid to visit beautiful Baja. . The people are warm, helpful and most go out of their way to help you. when I cross to the US, most people look at you funny if you say good morning and common courtesies are lost. .
The US News I get every night has violence reported in San Diego and LA areas. . Does that mean I should stay away from my home country???
Give Baja a break!!!

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Avatar for user 'konalarry'

konalarry | December 16, 2011 at 1:41 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

I'm so dam tired of hearing about all of you fools parting with your money.
You NEVER ever pay themoeriod. Their not going to take you inside the police station. There are plenty of reasons for them to fear you making a formal complaint with the Minister of tourism.

Wake up, I drove over 8,000 miles this year around Mexico and NEVER once do\id I have to pay a bribe.

all you do is hurt the overall situation everytime yo fall for this old trick!


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Avatar for user 'bajapedro'

bajapedro | December 20, 2011 at 9:39 a.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Oh please, I'm a Gringo living in Tijuana for the past seven years and I can honestly say hardly any of my friends; no, actually none of my friends; have been beheaded or otherwise harmed in any way. I'm so tired of this anti Mexican paranoia coming from uniformed idiots stateside who are confusing the facts.
Mexico has a huge problem with drug cartels who, in a war to gain control of the drug trade, are killing each other off. Some of you may have heard of a time in the U.S. known as the Roaring Twenties. In an effort to gain control of the illegal alcohol trade and to a lesser extent drugs and prostitution, criminal gangs were killing each other off constantly. Was the average citizen living in fear of their life? Not from what I've read. The odds of an innocent bystander being harmed were extremely low.
Bottom line.... If you're afraid to come south of the border, that's fine but please don't perpetuate the same old myths and stereotypes that have been going around forever.
Finally, in regards to "corrupt" policemen intimidating foreigners in to handing over huge bribes, you have the right to demand a written ticket which can be paid by mail from San Diego or to go before a judge in Mexico. If it's a phony charge, call the cop's bluff and nine times out of ten he'l tell you to be on your way.. If it's legitimate, you've broken the law so be prepared to pay a fine.
My only experience with a Tijuana cop was one time when a Mexican local tried to pass me while I was stopped. My side view mirror apparently scraped the whole side of this guy's car. He started yelling at me that I had damaged his car and the Tijuana cop after talking to him and assessing what had happened came over to me and said "I'm sorry but I must apologize for that guy, he's an a--hole" and told me to have a nice day.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | December 20, 2011 at 11:57 a.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago


Don't hurry back!


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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | December 20, 2011 at 3:13 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

DeLaRick, don't worry. We won't be going there. Feel free to leave yourself. I'm sure you'll enjoy a wave of brotherly love and prosperity.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 20, 2011 at 3:24 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Yep, they are trying to lure americans there so they can take our cars and cash for no reason and make us walk back across the border.

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Avatar for user 'Satariel'

Satariel | December 20, 2011 at 3:27 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

bajalady, sorry, but I think you have the NOLA syndrome. You think your town is safe and beautiful for everyone when it has the highest murder rate in the entire western hemisphere. Come on. It is foolish to say it is safe there.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 20, 2011 at 6:01 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

Funny how there are people who think "Because it hasn't happened to me, it must not happen at all."

Then when it does happen to them, they cry "How could this happen to me!"

Violent crime is unfortunately very common in Tijuana and Mexico in general.

That is why Mexico is on the State Department's travel warning list along with countries like Somalia, Haiti, Nigeria, and Yemen. All very dangerous countries to visit. Sure, there are some Americans who will travel to those places and survive. But that doesn't mean they are safe by any means.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 20, 2011 at 10:27 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

@De la Rick, LOL LOL LOL Good one.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 20, 2011 at 10:31 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

No paranoia here, Offender, Hollywood production shot in Mexico:

Paul Schrader's 'The Jesuit' With Michelle Rodriguez, Willem Dafoe
Nov 8, 2010 – Paul Schrader's 'The Jesuit' With Michelle Rodriguez, Willem Dafoe & Paz Vega Starts March 2011. by Kevin Jagernauth | Mon Nov 08 ...
The Jesuit (2012) - - Similar
You +1'd this publicly. Undo
A man nicknamed "the Jesuit," is imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit. When his wife is murdered and his son kidnapped and taken to Mexico, he devises...
Directed by Paul Schrader. Starring Paz Vega, Oscar Isaac, Manolo Cardona.

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Avatar for user 'HemITupUSgov'

HemITupUSgov | December 21, 2011 at 9:50 p.m. ― 5 years, 2 months ago

This topic needs far more attention towards the US gov officials than the Escondido checkpoints impounding cars of those who not only illegally driving here in the states but are also here illegally. I see very very little about our college students being lured into Mexico then beaten, raped, robbed, and even worse killed by the Mexican authorities. But yet, of course, Mexican immigrants make huge fusses and legal cases about losing 'money' to be far more important than the lives of innocent young adults.

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Avatar for user 'ranger27'

ranger27 | January 29, 2012 at 8:13 p.m. ― 5 years, 1 month ago

Satariel, let me see if I understand you. You are criticizing bajalady for saying that Ensenada is a perfectly safe city when all along you've known that it "has the highest murder rate in the entire Western Hemisphere."

That's a stunning remark, stunningly stupid, that is. Google it, research it, stick it you know where, but the last thing you should be doing is correcting anyone.

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Avatar for user 'Sandy'

Sandy | March 26, 2012 at 6:48 a.m. ― 4 years, 11 months ago

Dr. Daniel Cerrillo Lara, Doctor Daniel Lara Cerrillo, MEDICAL NEGLIGENCE, MEDICAL MALPRACTICE, NEGLIGENCIA MEDICA TIJUANA. I took my child to Tijuana to have orthodontic treatment. Dr. Daniel Cerrillo Lara of Tijuana Reg. I.M.S.S. A08-79850-10-3 address 10489 - 306 German Gedovius Zona Rio CP 22320 destroyed my childs teeth. My child lost 8 teeth to this man and now needs implants to replace teeth. 16 teeth were damaged with root absorption from orthodontic treatment. Front Teeth 7,8,9 and 10 need implants for replacement. I dont recommend anyone take there child to this orthodontic dentist in Tijuana. It was not worth the cost to my family. There is no medical malpractice insurance for doctors. There is no way to find out complaints against doctors. There are over 1800 complaints of Medical Negligence as of 2011 mostly against the dental community. Tijuana's Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Baja California ( PGJE) needs to investigate and get rid of bad doctors. That would reduce the cases of medical negligence in Tijuana and make a safer community of honest Dental Practices. There is no transparency and it is a great risk as my family found out. Americans are safer getting work done in America, at least you know you have options if Medical Negligence is ever involved..

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