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.

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 welcomes Merida, without human rights restrictions

President Calderon on Friday welcomed the U.S. Congress’ approval of the Merida Initiative a day earlier, an aid injection from the United States which is aimed at helping Mexico in its fight against  powerful drug cartels.

The bill has dropped a controversial requirement that Mexico meet certain human rights standards in order to receive the aid. Mexicans had objected to the human rights provision, saying that it amounted to outside meddling by the United States in Mexican affairs. But dropping the human rights requirements seems certain to anger numerous opposition groups to the aid package – see this La Plaza post on the issue. Continue reading