Checkpoints, Protests Restricting Nonessential Travel Into Sonora On Hold For Now
Travelers without an essential reason to visit neighboring Sonora, Mexico, were turned away by officials and protesters over the Fourth of July holiday. But southbound travelers won’t be impeded at Sonoran ports of entry this weekend after both protesters and officials said restrictions had been lifted for the time being.
“There shouldn’t be any concerns for visitors to come down to Rocky Point at this time," said Ernesto Munro, mayor of the popular beach town Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point, which reopened to tourists in recent weeks. "There shouldn’t be any hassles coming into Mexico."
Munro said after would-be visitors were turned away by protesters in the border town of Sonoyta for several days last week, his government reached an agreement with protesters to remove blockades.
As part of the agreement, Rocky Point agreed to provide Sonoyta with face masks, oxygen tanks, a sanitation tunnel and other medical supplies, among other measures. Sonoyta residents will also be allowed into Rocky Point for essential reasons, like visiting banks and stores. And tourists are being directed to pass through Sonoyta without stopping.
But protester Carlos Jacquez said while the blockades will be removed for now, they could be back.
“If we don’t see any answers by next weekend, we’re going to take control again," he said.
Sonoyta, he said, does not have the resources and medical facilities to deal with an influx of coronavirus cases, and protesters are still concerned about potential spread of virus across the border.
Officials also confirmed that state mandated checkpoints set up last weekend at other Sonoran border ports, including Nogales, have been lifted for now. But they could be reimplemented at a future date.
Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard also confirmed Friday morning that U.S. and Mexican officials have agreed to extend a partial border closure that started on March 20 until August.
"Cases are going up in southern U.S. states, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas," he said during a press conference Friday. "Therefore, our perspective and that of the health secretary is that it wouldn't be prudent right now to open, because then it could cause another outbreak."
Ebrard said federal authorities were working with local and state leaders to restrict nonessential travel until August, when Mexico hopes coronavirus cases will be going down in border cities.
Many have complained however, that travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border have only been applied to northbound traffic, with few measures in place to curb free movement south into Mexico.
Rocky Point is allowing visitors with proof of a reservation at an approved hotel or resort, as well as residents who can quarantine at home, into the city through a checkpoint. And city leaders have established strict protocols including a 10 p.m. curfew, mandated use of face masks and reduced capacity at restaurants hotels and other establishments to help control the spread of the coronavirus.
Munro said he hopes to remove the checkpoint on Aug. 1 to allow easier access to the city, though the other protocols would remain in place. He also said the city is in negotiations with the Mexican federal government to reopen Rocky Point's beaches in August as well.