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Mexican authorities lockdown Los Cabos as G20 summit approaches

posted 16 Jun 2012, 22:01 by Meriposa World   [ updated 16 Jun 2012, 22:02 ]

Los Cabos, Mexico 

The G20 summit venue is on the very southern tip of the Baja California peninsula - "between the desert and the ocean" in the Mexican presidency's phrase - and is surrounded on three sides by Pacific waters.

But despite its easily defensible position, Mexican authorities were taking no chances.

Masked federal police patrolled the region in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns, and naval patrol boats secured approaches to the beach.

Los Cabos is a popular tourist destination for North Americans, and has been largely spared the violence that afflicts regions in thrall to Mexico's deadly drugs cartels. President Felipe Calderon wants to keep it that way.

Since the Mexican leader launched a crackdown on crime in December 2006, tens of thousands of Mexicans have lost their lives in violence, as gangs battle each other and the authorities to hang on to smuggling routes.

The G20 summit is not expected to address Calderon's drug war, but the gathering poses a particular security challenge of its own to Mexican officials.

Some 25 heads of state and government, including US President Barack Obama and China's Hu Jintao, are expected, and most will bring his or her own guards to complement the 2,500-strong Mexican security contingent.

"Security will be guaranteed and no corner will be neglected," said Guillermo Marron, secretary-general of the Los Cabos municipality, a 30-kilometre strip of seafront hotels, golf courses and resort towns.

The town has asked its residents to show patience as their credentials are checked and re-checked as they move around a once welcoming district that is now a maze of security barriers, exclusion zones and checkpoints.

The strip runs from San Jose del Cabo, which draws families to its fine restaurants and sprawling all-in resort hotels, and Cabo San Lucas, a party town famous for its unbridled nightlife and daring watersports.

The road that snakes between them along cliff tops overhanging the Pacific coast is lined with lush green golf courses and luxurious hotels, a shop window for a country whose image has been battered by drug wars.

Between Friday and Monday the road will be sealed off to normal traffic as the motorcades of the leaders of the world's most powerful economies shuttle between summit meetings and talks with leading private sector chief executives.

The street hawkers who ply their wares along the roads and beaches in tourist season will have to move on, and local authorities have warned all residents to carry their papers at all times during the summit.

AFP, June 6, 2012