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.

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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.

Kidnappings in Mexico up by 9 percent

The number of kidnappings in Mexico grew by 9.1 percent in the first five months of the year, according to figures published this week.

The statistics, from the anti-kidnapping branch of the attorney general’s office (Procuraduria General de la Republica, PGR, in Spanish), will serve to justify the fear currently gripping the country over insecurity and high crime levels. A march is planned at the end of the month in Mexico City to protest the rising level of crime and public insecurity.

The discovery earlier this month of the bullet-ridden body of a 14-year-old kidnap victim prompted a public outcry in Mexico as kidnappings rise and drug-related violence takes a heavy toll on the civilian population.

Read the rest of this post, written for La Plaza, here.

Waiting for a man to die

Outside the American Embassy last night, August 5th 2008

Photo: An empty bench outside the American Embassy on Tuesday. There was no candlelit vigil for Medellin in a city still on shock from other violent crime. Deborah Bonello / MexicoReporter.com

On Tuesday, I waited for a man to die. Even though several people die every minute of every day, I’ve never known the name of the person that I knew was going to die; neither have I ever known so closely when they were going to die and how. But yesterday I knew.

The man’s name was Jose Ernesto Medellin, and now he is dead. On Tuesday, he was due to die at 6pm at the hands of the Texan government for the brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in 1993.

Jose Ernesto Medellin from Mexico Mexican, and the United States Embassy had predicted protests in a case that had attracted international attention and condemnation. The Mexican Government, the International Criminal Court at the Hague as well as other major players such as Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations had all tried to step in to stop the execution, claiming the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform the arrested Mexican nationals of their right to seek help from the Mexican Consulate. Their pleas didn’t work.

So I left the confines of the office to head down to the embassy try to catch some of the expected protests on film around the hour of Medellin’s execution. Continue reading

Tijuana: Reflections on the Border

Tijuana side.

The view from the border: Tijuana side.

“TJ? Really?” was the response from most people last week when they learned I was heading down south of San Diego for a research trip.

They were right to be cautious. I live in Mexico City — one of the biggest, baddest towns around — but still gave Tijuana a second thought. The world’s most famous border city has been getting some bad press of late due to the drug-related violence playing out on its streets.

But what struck me more during my brief trip was the border itself and how it is littered with evidence of its own casualties and conflicts, past and present. The wall is at the center of the current national debate on immigration, and I wanted to see it for myself.

Read on – this post was written for La Plaza.

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

Mexico nightclub tragedy caused by inept police and an ignored youth, says youth advocate

P6232087This post was written for La Plaza, the Los Angeles Times Latin America blog.

A tragedy in Mexico City last weekend, in which 12 people were suffocated or trampled to death in a bungled police raid at the News Divine night club, was due to an inept police force and a lack of public policy directed at the city’s youth, says a sociologist and longtime activist for youth-related programs.

Héctor Castillo Berthier, who runs the youth culture center Circo Volador (Flying Circus) in Mexico City and has worked in youth programs for more than 30 years (pictured), said in an interview Tuesday with La Plaza that the capital’s police are not trained to deal with adolescents and young adults. That’s part of a wider failure to integrate young people into Mexico’s public and political life, he said.

“Mexico doesn’t have a defined public policy for its youth. They aren’t part of the public agenda or the political agenda,” said Castillo Berthier, speaking in his cluttered office in the run-down neighborhood of Lorenzo Boturini. Continue reading