Tijuana cartel violence caused border traffic to plummet. Now it’s getting back to normal

Violence in Mexico’s border towns over the weekend has greatly reduced the usual tide of visitors making the trek down from California to Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito.

On Tuesday, however, the situation appeared to be returning to normal. Businesses kept their doors open and the hour-long traffic to pass through border checkpoints into the United States was back.

At least two dozen vehicles were hijacked and burned near Baja California on Friday, state officials said, in a shocking, significant escalation of violence across the border in areas Californians regularly visit. Reports that the Jalisco New Generation cartel had imposed a curfew in Tijuana also began circulating online, emptying many of the popular frontier town’s normally busy streets.

After the attacks, traffic at the California land border crossings was significantly reduced as visitors tried to dodge the flash of violence over the weekend.

Statistics on the actual number of visitors over the weekend were not immediately available, but a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that officials saw “below-average traffic and wait times at California border crossings” last weekend.

This who made it across the border also saw Tijuana’s normally car-filled streets relatively empty as reports circulated of several cars being hijacked and left on fire along the main streets.

Friday’s violent attacks prompted the US consulate in Tijuana to direct government personnel to seek shelter on the ground. In a show of force to restore order, military troops and special forces arrived in the city on Saturday to reinforce National Guard troops and local police.

No deaths were reported in Baja California, but the incidents marked the third time in a week that violence had erupted in cities across the border, a grim reminder of the power cartels that persist in the region.

At least 11 people were killed in Ciudad Juárez last week and cartels also torched shops, buses and cars and blocked main roads in Jalisco and Guanajuato.

The attacks prompted a Carnival Cruise Line ship scheduled to dock in Ensenada on Sunday to cancel its stop.

“Due to the recent local unrest and the U.S. Department of State’s issued directive for its employees to seek shelter in Ensenada and the surrounding region, Carnival Radiance will cancel the Ensenada call,” the company said in a tweet.

On Sunday, the US consulate rescinded its order for staff to seek shelter at the scene, but warned US citizens to reconsider traveling across the border “due to crime and kidnapping.”

Seventeen people were reportedly taken into custody in connection with the violence that affected Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, Ensenada and Rosarito Beach.

City officials in Tijuana wanted to regain control of the city on Sunday. Taking to social media, Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero claimed that violence between bad actors was limited.

“I want to be clear: no one attempting to harm the safety of our families is welcome in this city,” Caballero wrote in one expression in Spanish. “Thugs should go and settle their scores outside of our city, we don’t want them here, don’t involve the people who work every day to build a better future and a Tijuana for all. No one bothers decent citizens.”

Despite the spark of violence, border officials said they continued operations as normal, even with fewer people crossing at the checkpoints.

“There were no changes for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at our border crossings, no closures and no new restrictions,” a spokesman said. “CBP officials remain vigilant when processing travelers from Mexico.”

Traffic returning to California from Mexico appears to have returned to normal at busy US ports of entry on Monday.

The two Calexico entry points Monday were busy, and drivers waited about two hours to cross the border, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Wait Times portal.

On Tuesday, all signs seemed to point to things getting back to normal – for better or for worse.

In Otay Mesa, drivers sat in their cars for more than two hours around noon on Tuesday, waiting to enter the United States Tijuana cartel violence caused border traffic to plummet. Now it’s getting back to normal

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