Mexicali residents clog port while protesting proposed hike in electricity rates

February 16, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Mexicali protesters plugged Calexico's downtown Port of Entry on Friday but the impact on the U.S. side of the border was minimal because of preparation by authorities.

At 3 p.m. a large group of Mexican protesters blocked the traffic lanes for U.S.-bound border-crossers headed to the downtown Calexico port.

The U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs Service and the California Highway Patrol had been notified of the protest days in advance.


The Mexicali Police Department told Calexico police Lt. Jim Neujahr on Thursday that Mexican officials would allow the protesters to clog the port. Calexico police then informed the other agencies that would be affected by the protesters' actions.

Mexicali residents were protesting a proposed increase in their electricity rates.

Before the 3 p.m. start time of Friday's protest, CHP officers and the Calexico Police Department had diverted almost all traffic off southbound Imperial Avenue south of Highway 98. Motorists were told to head east on Highway 98 to the Calexico East Port of Entry to cross into Mexico.

Meanwhile, motorists driving down Highway 111 past the Heber Road intersection were greeted by a California Department of Transportation sign blinking the message "border closed." Some prospective border-crossers used arterials such as Cole Road or Jasper Road to get to Highway 98.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Michael Torres said, "Most of our traffic efforts were at Imperial and Cole."

"We were there no more than an hour," he added.

An associate working at the Autozone on Imperial Avenue on Friday said there was hardly any traffic passing by his store from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. It was a surreal moment to see no cars heading north or south.

Associate Gilbert Lazo said, "Oh yeah, usually at that time is when we get all of the customers."

The few customers who did stop by said the port had been blocked.

"I didn't believe them until I saw no cars at all. There were rumors here that they were jumping from here to there," Lazo said.

The rumors were true.

After blocking the lanes to U.S.-bound traffic, the protesters moved to the other side of the port, blocking the lanes for Mexico-bound traffic.

Around 4 p.m. the protesters cleared out and traffic returned to normal.

Lazo said there wasn't a large effect on the day's receipts since people who had planned on shopping during the hour or so of the protest came to the store after 5 p.m. instead.

At Imperial Avenue gas stations the economic effect of the protest was muted due to the large number of people who bought lottery tickets Friday.

Talking on the phone from the 7-Eleven on Imperial Avenue on Saturday, assistant manager Guillermo Reyes said, "Everybody is here in the store."

Lottery outlets around town were packed Friday and Saturday leading up to last night's drawing.

"The protest was only 30 minutes or an hour," Reyes said.

The drop in traffic allowed his employees to relax a little in the midst of the rush for lottery tickets, he added.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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