Saturday's border blockade in Sonoyta. Saturday's border blockade in Sonoyta.

Residents of border town in Sonora block entry into Mexico from US

Access was blocked at Sonoyta for fear of the coronavirus being carried from Arizona

Residents of the border community of Sonoyta, Sonora, briefly raised an impromptu blockade Saturday of the road leading from the border crossing at Lukeville, Arizona, into their city in a bid to prevent visitors from increasing the number of Covid-19 cases.

Arizona is currently considered a U.S. “hotspot” where Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing and hospitals are at or near capacity. According to numbers collected by the New York Times, Pima County, where Lukeville is located, has registered 9,873 cases of Covid-19 as of Sunday, or one case for every 106 residents. Pima is currently reporting 299 new cases per day, up from 235 a week ago.

Using their cars, Sonoyta residents blocked the roadway just after the border control checkpoint, on the Mexico side. The road, which goes through Sonoyta, is also the quickest way to reach Puerto Peñasco, a tourist locale on the coast of the Gulf of California. Residents said in posts on online platforms that they were particularly concerned that the weekend would bring an influx of U.S tourists to their community to celebrate the Fourth of July.

Residents of Sonoyta also demanded health checkpoints to screen arriving U.S. visitors, better medical attention facilities and more Covid-19 testing for the area. In recent weeks, residents here have also been expressing resentment at the fact that tourists have allegedly been allowed to go to Puerto Peñasco, but residents have not. 

The posts showed images of cars blocking the road from the border checkpoint and videos of U.S. residents complaining about not being allowed to pass. Some protested that they were Mexican and should be allowed into their own country.

Sonoyta Mayor José Ramos Arzate appeared to support his constituents’ actions, saying in a press release that he invited U.S. tourists not to visit Mexico at present, adding that the “people of the U.S. should not be allowed to enter Mexico at the moment except for essential matters. Therefore, this checkpoint will continue to operate, located a few meters from the Sonoyta border checkpoint.”

Ramos said the goal was to protect his community from its own spike in cases.

“It’s our duty as municipal authorities to protect the health of our city. We will continue to operate take necessary measures to avoid more deaths and infections in our community,” he said.

Both the U.S. and Mexico have agreed to limit border crossings to essential activities, but until this past week such limitations have mainly been applied to people entering the U.S. and not travelers entering Mexico.    

Sources: AP (sp)

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