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Tijuana safe for fight card?

10
Mar

The U.S. Department of State has this to say on its web site:

“Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades. Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area. “

Note the word Tijuana, which happens to be the site of a boxing card featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. vs. Luciano Leonel Cuello on March 28.

Now, the government must be overly cautious in its travel alerts. And promoter Bob Arum set up a conference call on Monday, which included the Mayor of Tijuana and the head of tourism for Baja California, to assure everyone that they’d be perfectly safe if they attended the event.

Still, we won’t blame you if you don’t want to go.

The card is a good one. In addition to Chavez, Humberto Soto fights Antonio Davis and Jose Luis Castillo faces Antonio Diaz. However, when the word “fire” comes before the word “fight,” it might be more comfortable to absorb the pay-per-view cost and watch from the relative safety of your sofa.

Arum and Co. were persistent. He said he regularly vacations in Cabo San Lucas in Baja and has never encountered trouble. I’ve been to Cabo, too; it does seem safe, although Cabo is a resort area and not a city of 2 million as Tijuana is.

And the Mexican tourism official, Oscar Escobedo, insisted Tijuana is no more dangerous than Detroit or New Orleans, which isn’t necessarily persuasive. He also cited a newspaper report in which the FBI says Baja was safer in 2008 than in the previous two years.

However, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “Tijuana marked its bloodiest year in 2008, with 843 killings, more than twice 2007's total of 337.” By comparison, according to FBI statistics, Detroit and New Orleans had 394 and 209 murders respectively in 2007.

Also, according to the newspaper, FBI agents said at least 26 San Diego County residents were kidnapped and held for ransom in Tijuana, Rosarito Beach or Ensenada in 2007. That’s a small number compared to the estimated 60 million who cross the border into Mexico from the U.S. each year but still a reason to pause.

Escobedo even lost a nephew to the violence but still insists the city is safe.

“I live in Tijuana,” he said. “My kids live in Tijuana. We don’t have secuity. It’s a safe state, a safe city. Terrible incidents happen all over the world. ÔǪ As far as tourism is concerned, it’s very safe.”

Arum was asked point blank: Are we to believe you or the state department?

“These are general warnings,” he said. “ÔǪ There has been an extraordinary amount of violence in Juarez. I wouldn’t look to go to Juarez. In Tijuana, there’s been an absence of violence. It’s wrong for the state department to paint all of Mexico with a broad brush.”

If you buy that, it could be an interesting experience. The card will take place in a 22,000-seat bull ring with a view of the ocean. And, as Arum pointed out with great enthusiasm, the food south of the border is normally terrific.

Just be safe.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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