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Cabo residents vow to keep out Wal-Mart

California and the West

October 27, 2006|From the Associated Press

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. apparently may not have a place in paradise.

The world's largest retailer won preliminary approval this week to build a store in Cabo San Lucas after a nearly two-year battle. But opponents vow to continue fighting the project with demonstrations or by blocking roads.

The Los Cabos City Council voted unanimously to give conditional approval for the store, requiring it to be unintrusive, pass environmental studies and not excessively affect traffic in this fishing and resort town of about 80,000 at the tip of the Baja California peninsula.

The store would be the first Wal-Mart in the state of Baja California Sur. Already, Wal-Mart is the largest grocery chain in Mexico and one of its biggest employers.

Residents and shopkeepers, however, fear that the store -- first proposed, and rejected, at a site near the middle of the city -- could harm the town's laid-back atmosphere, where sports fishermen and tourists mingle with locals on the narrow streets.

Some are also worried that the store or a proposed highway overpass for it might replace a trademark stone sea arch as the first view people have when they drive into the city.

"If we have to hold demonstrations, we'll do it and, if it comes to that, block some of the access roads" to Cabo San Lucas, said Sebastian Alvarez, leader of the Union of Organized Businesses, a group of 350 small shopkeepers.

Wal-Mart says the new store will be an important part of its Mexico operations.

"We are convinced that we have something valuable to offer Baja California Sur," said Antonio Ocarranza, a spokesman for Wal-Mart de Mexico, "and that our contribution to the community will be positive."

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