Into The St Century

For years, Mexico's drug cartels have wielded significant political and popular power throughout the country and especially in the state of Baja California (Norte), a major gateway for illegal drugs moving into the USA. At the center of this drug trade stands the powerful, Tijuana-based Arellano Félix cartel. Notorious for its violence and accused of moving tons of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and other drugs across the border, the organization is slowly losing its leaders to a joint US-Mexican effort to topple Mexico's cartels. In 2002 the organization's top man, Benjamin Arellano Félix, was captured and his brother gunned down by police. Two years later Mexican police nabbed Efraín Pérez and Jorge Aureliano Félix, two of the cartel's alleged senior leaders. Finally, in 2006, kingpin Francisco Javier Arellano Félix was captured by the FBI while he was sportfishing near Cabo San Lucas. At the close of this edition he faced the death penalty in the USA, accused of racketeering and conspiracy.

Despite such problems, Baja California continues its growth in economic power, population, and popularity as a tourist destination. In the 1990s Los Cabos' population tripled, and countless new hotels, condominium complexes and golf courses opened. Nearing completion in early 2007, the colossal 2000-acre (800-hectare) resort development of Puerto Los Cabos (p229) has transformed the coastline north of San José del Cabo. Near Santa Rosalillita, the controversial Escalera Náutica project (see p25) is billed to turn Baja's Sea of Cortez into the next Cancún, and between Tijuana and Ensenada, high-rises have hidden the coastline from view.

As Baja develops, growing pains are inevitable and the peninsula's natural environment takes the hardest hits. Awareness and participation by tourists in both ecologically sound travel activities and in programs that seek to minimize the effects of tourism will help the peninsula remain the astounding natural playground it has long been.



National Action Party (PAN) candidate Vicente Fox wins presidency, Francisco Javier Arellano Félix, leader of the Tijuana-based Arellano breaking 71-year reign by Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) Félix, is captured by the FBI while sportfishing off Cabo San Lucas

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