Nuevo Laredo Bridges Reopen After Riots
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico (AP) _ The city’s two highway bridges to Texas reopened today after rioting by Mexicans protesting new rules that cut the amount of U.S. goods they can bring into Mexico.
An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people stormed the Mexican customs building Sunday, setting fires in at least four offices and then heading off to loot businesses. U.S. officials said 11 Mexican customs officers fled across the bridges to Laredo, Texas, after throwing their guns into the Rio Grande.
Witnesses said a boy hit by a rock was seriously injured and dozens of other people suffered minor injuries in the melee. About 50 people were reported arrested.
Residents of Mexico’s border areas are angry over rules that limit them to bringing in $50 worth of U.S. goods at a time, while citizens in the interior are allowed up to $300 worth. Staples like flour, beans and rice are in short supply in Nuevo Laredo, and most residents buy groceries in the United States.
″It is hard for us,″ one protester was quoted as saying by The Laredo Times. ″They take our chicken or our bread while they let the people from Monterrey drive through with brand new televisions.″
The rioters physically blocked car and truck traffic across the two bridges Sunday, leading U.S. Customs Service officials to do the same as a safety precaution. Pedestrian traffic was not affected.
One bridge reopened late Sunday, and the other opened this morning.
A third bridge, 25 miles north of Laredo, that normally closes at 11 p.m. remained open to handle commercial traffic diverted from the closed bridge, said Judy Turner, spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs regional office in Houston. She said that bridge would resume normal hours tonight.
The Customs Service’s Laredo district, stretching more than 300 miles along the border from Del Rio to Brownsville, is the busiest commercial crossing on the U.S.-Mexico border, Ms. Turner said.
In recent weeks, Mexican authorities have cracked down on citizens bringing home food, electronic goods and other items from shopping malls in the United States.