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Tijuana Poses For Its Close-up

Cooperation between federal, state and local authorities in Baja California has led to a drop in violence by drug cartels that will allow the region to show off its culture, cuisine and entrepreneurial spirit.

Those were some of the comments made by Mexican President Felipe Calderón Thursday as he helped launch Tijuana Innovadora, a 14-day star-studded conference at the city’s cultural center.

Leaders in Baja California do not hide the fact that the conference is intended to change the city’s image from that of a crime riddled border town into a modern, innovative city ripe for investment.

Tijuana, like much of Mexico, saw violence surge when Calderón sent soldiers into the streets to battle drug cartels. But unlike other border towns, the surge in violence has subsided with the capture of key leaders of the drug cartels earlier this year.

That will allow the region to again focus on development and on luring back tourists, a key sector of the economy, the president said. Many tourists have chosen to vacation elsewhere after hearing news about violent confrontations, many of them in the middle of city streets.

“Tijuana, tired of being stigmatized, has decided to show its true self: Honest, hard working, constructive, efficient and humane,” Calderón said.

The president also took the opportunity to recognize six organizations with the National Quality Award. The president handed over trophies and plaques to representatives from private companies, community organizations and government employees for innovative approaches to problems.

Speakers from all over the world are scheduled to talk at Tijuana Innovadora, including Al Gore, billionaire Carlos Slim and Jose Hernandez, the first Mexican-Ameriocan astronaout.

On display will be many items manufactured at the city’s “maquiladoras”, or factories, such as flat-screen TVs, medical devices and parts for smart phones.

The conference runs through Oct. 21.

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