(TMU) — Mexican protesters sealed off a border crossing at the U.S. southern border to demand that the flow of U.S. travelers into Mexico be halted by the national government in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Residents of the Mexican state of Sonora, which lies south of Arizona, sealed off all Mexico-bound lanes at the main border crossing in the twin border cities of Ambos Nogales, in protest of their national government’s perceived failure to take sufficient measures to fight the ongoing CoViD-19 outbreak, Arizona Republic reports.
While disruptive, the masked protesters numbered fewer than a dozen. However, they still managed to block two southbound lanes of the DeConcini crossing and gain media attention.
The group held signs declaring:
“This is a pandemic! Stay at home, stay in the United States!”
Un grupo de manifestantes llamados Sonorenses por la Salud y la Vida cerraron el ingreso de automovilistas hacia #Nogales en la garita Puerta de México. Exigen mayor protección para que la pandemia del #coronavirus afecte lo menos posible a los mexicanos. #ELIMPARCIAL pic.twitter.com/9vq3bYeOcu
— EL IMPARCIAL (@elimparcialcom) March 25, 2020
They also called on Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador—popularly known by his initials AMLO—to enforce tighter controls and restrictions on travelers going from the U.S. to Mexico.
The protesters from the group Sonorans for Health and Life (Sonorenses por la Salud y la Vida) claim that while the border is ostensibly closed to all but “essential” travel that includes trade, border authorities have done precious little to enforce the new controls or to test border crossers.
Dossier Politico reports that group member José Luis Hernández said that the action was the “first warning” to AMLO. He explained:
“There are no health screenings by the federal government to deal with this pandemic.
That is why we are here in Nogales. We have taken this measure to ask [the president] to act now.”
Continuing, Hernández said that the government must temporarily ban tourism by both U.S. citizens and Mexican nationals living in the U.S., who often come to the region to undergo medical procedures that are far more expensive north of the border.
The state of Arizona has recorded over 400 infections, including one CoViD-19 case in every county bordering Mexico. With over 80,000 cases nationwide, the U.S. currently has the highest number of recorded coronavirus infections in the world.
President López Obrador has come under fire from health experts, media outlets, human rights monitors, and his center-right critics for his perceived unwillingness to take decisive, draconian measures to prevent the novel virus from dramatically spreading across Mexico.
Mexico: Mexicans Need Accurate COVID-19 Information https://t.co/hMOB63cvjG
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) March 26, 2020
AMLO has been criticized for urging Mexicans to carry on with normal routines, even as his own officials and local governments urge residents to follow social distancing guidelines. The popular left-wing president has also publicly broken the safe distancing protocols recommended by his own government while holding rallies where he has greeted supporters with handshakes, hugs, and kisses.
So far, Mexico has fewer than 500 confirmed cases of CoViD-19 and six deaths. However, critics have accused Mexican health authorities of failing to sufficiently conduct widespread coronavirus tests on the population.
Economists and officials also fear that a drastic response to the novel virus risks capsizing the Mexican economy, accelerating the peso’s depreciation, and disproportionately harming the poor and working class, 57 percent of whom work in the informal economy.
Platiqué con Claudia Sheinbaum, jefa de Gobierno de la Ciudad de México, con sana distancia pero unidos para servir al pueblo y atender a los más necesitados. pic.twitter.com/OCW1bwfEVq
— Andrés Manuel (@lopezobrador_) March 25, 2020
The Mexican president has also vowed that his government’s efforts to address the growing crisis would exclusively focus on helping the poor, rather than banks and big businesses.
At his regular Thursday morning press conference, however, AMLO began to radically alter his message about the virus in a clear sign that the criticism had sunken in.
López Obrador said:
“If you are a company that doesn’t have a basic social function, businessmen should help us, at least this month, until April 19, by sending their workers home with benefits.”
He also urged Mexican nationals within the U.S. to abstain from travel unless absolutely vital. However, all flights into Mexico will continue uninterrupted.