Marion Ali – Assistant Editor
Traffic at the northern border with Mexico was blocked on Wednesday and Thursday on the Mexican side of the border at the Subteniente Lopez entrance to Chetumal, effectively causing a massive bottleneck with traffic, and forcing the commute into and out of Belize to come to a halt for almost nine hours, both days combined.
On Wednesday, angry Mexicans who sell in the Subteniente Lopez zone drove their vehicles on both sides of the road and parked them across the entrance and exit portions of the federal highway, effectively blocking access into and exit from Chetumal Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The vendors had grown impatient after their requests to officials of that municipality, for the removal of a checkpoint outside the Navy office (Secretaria de Marina), had gone unanswered. They claim that since the checkpoint was installed a few weeks ago, the delays it created for travelers was affecting their businesses. Travelers, particularly shoppers from Belize, were not going across as often to do business, according to the vendors.
On busy days, the process at the border sometimes had travelers in a two-hour-long wait to be searched for drugs, weapons, and imported cigars and cigarettes being smuggled across the border.
In a conversation on Thursday evening with Javier Aguilar, the person in charge of Commerce, Trade and Tourism at the Mexican Embassy, he told the Reporter that the first blockage occurred from 3:00 p.m. to around 8:30 p.m. Belize time on Wednesday. He said that the vendors decided to clear the area and allow for the free flow of traffic on grounds that negotiations with municipal officials from Quintana Roo would take place on Thursday morning.
By Thursday at midday, however, the vendors, albeit fewer than their numbers on Wednesday, had again blocked the entrance to and exit from Chetumal. That blockage lasted for over three hours, until around 3:30 p.m. Belize time. It took effect after the vendors got no favourable reaction on Thursday morning from the officials. They decided to clear the road on Thursday evening on grounds that there would be some audience with the officials to hear their plight.
On Wednesday, the interruption of traffic flow created a bottleneck of vehicles running for five kilometers (over 3 miles), according to el Diario de Quintana Roo. The Mexican newspaper reported that the vendors blocked the road at three points. The road closures severely affected people who live in Belize but work or study in Chetumal, as well as Mexicans who traveled to the Corozal Free Zone on those days and needed to get back across to Mexico.