Mexico’s drug violence is bad for business

The drug violence that continues to sweep across Mexico isn’t only damaging citizen confidence in the country’s government and public security. It also is taking a toll on Mexico’s economy, according to Treasury Secretary Agustin Carstens.

The Mexican government estimates that the violence has slowed economic growth by more than 1%.

Increased safety concerns have meant that companies and businesses spend 5% to 10% more on security services. This has hurt domestic competition and sales, according to Carstens, as well as having a negative affect on national development generally.

Last week was another bloody one for Mexico — on Thursday, 12 headless bodies turned up in the normally quiet southern state of the Yucatan.  Five bodies — four of them decapitated — were found earlier in the week in Tijuana. All the deaths are thought to have been drug-war related.

The ongoing drug wars and rising levels of crime and kidnappings in Mexico prompted thousands across the country to march over the weekend, expressing their anger and demanding action.

Carstens also announced that the security budget for 2009 will increase substantially, speaking to the newspaper Reforma.

Click here for more on the drug trade across Latin America.

For our special report on Mexico’s drug problems, go to our Mexico Under Siege page.

— Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

This blog post was written for La Plaza.

NYT: How the drug war impacts civilians

The drug war in Mexico has become pretty much a daily assignment here in the country – news of headless bodies turning up in the Yucatan and mass shootings in Chuihuaha tend to dominate the headlines. Combined with the huge crime wave and rising kidnappings, the country probably has one of the worst reputations abroad.

The New York Times has a great piece online today about how just regular citizens are reacting to the drug war.

“We all live in fear now,” he said. “Any of us could be taken or killed. I try to wear nothing and do nothing that attracts attention. I wear T-shirts and a hat. I have no jewelry. I don’t want to stand out.”

In modern Mexico, a new way of cautious thinking is setting in. A Hummer pulls beside one’s vehicle at an intersection? Better keep looking straight ahead. Or better yet, many recommend, do not stop at red lights at all.

Click here to read the full piece.

For nearly daily coverage of the drug violence in Mexico, stay tuned to the Los Angeles Times Mexico Under Siege page and the NYT’s Drug trafficking in Mexico topics page.

John McCain’s great timing

John McCain, the presumptive U.S Republican presidential candidate, couldn’t have timed his trip to Latin America better. Not only does he fly into Colombia a day before 6-year hostage of the FARC Ingrid Betancourt is liberated, he then rides into Mexico City this morning days after the Merida Initiative gets approved in El Norte.

Some of that great timing is pure coincidence – some not. Continue reading

Bribe culture in action

Corruption within Mexico’s law enforcement agencies is reputedly rife, and recent figures show that people here spent more on bribes last year than they did during 2005. But it’s always interesting to see hearsay happen, and yesterday I had the pleasure of witnessing the power of the bribe first hand.

Continue reading

Latin America promotes but doesn’t respect human rights

Latin American countries such as Brazil and Mexico have been strong on promoting human rights internationally and in supporting the UN human rights machinery during 2007.

But unless the gap between their policies internationally and their performance at home is closed their credibility as human rights champions will be challenged, according to this week’s report from Amnesty International on human rights around the world.

You can access the report here and click on the links at the top for specific country reports. Continue reading

Arrest warrants issued for Cacho case

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, herself a victim of human rights abuses, listens to the tale of the friend of a prison inmate.Warrants for the arrest of five public employees involved in the illegal detention of journalist Lydia Cacho (pictured) have been issued in Mexico after the nation’s Supreme Court decided at the end of last year not to pursue legal proceedings against those involved in the case.

The Attorney General’s office, which represents a special office set up to investigate crimes against journalists in Mexico (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Contra Periodistas, FEADP), issued the arrest warrants. The names of those who are under arrest warrant have not been published, and it is not known whether Mario Marin, the governor of Puebla who was implicated in the illegal arrest of Cacho, is amongst them. Continue reading

Mexicans spending more on bribes

The fact that there exist official statistics on the amount and size of bribes paid in Mexico is perhaps indicative of the level to which corruption and the ‘informal economy’ is ingrained in Mexican Society.

The latest figures from Transperencia Mexico show that Mexicans spent 42% more on bribes last year than in 2005, splashing out a massive $2.6 billion. That’s an average of more than $24 for each of Mexico’s 105 million people.

A brief survey of friends shows that some have paid up to 500 pesos to policemen to get out of parking/ speeding and drinking infractions. But the best bribe story has to be a friend who got stopped for having a dodgy back-light, and gave the policeman such a hard time he eventually got off with just giving him a piece of gum as his payoff. Nice work.

For my part, I recall watching the TV news one afternoon. The newsreader was talking about how there is a problem in Mexico City with people dumping their trash on the pavement / sidewalk rather than leaving it in their house and bringing it out when the garbage guys pass by. It’s an offence, but it doesn’t carry a fine. He went on to say, on network TV, that the police were going to be of no help enforcing the law because there was no money in it for them – people weren’t going to pay a bribe if they weren’t eventually going to have to pay a fine. Such overt acknowledgement of the city’s system made me laugh.

There’s more on the nature of the types of bribes paid through this link – but it’s important to remember that the poll included tipping garbage collectors and other little ‘mordidas’ which in my mind, is more of a tip than a bribe. You decide.