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.

Photos: Peace march in Mexico

A girl wielded a photo of Monica Alejandrina, who was kidnapped in 2004, during this Saturday’s march for peace across Mexico.

Thousands of protesters of all social classes hit the streets of cities across the country, expressing their anger and indignation at rising levels of kidnappings and crime across Mexico.

Click here for the video dispatch from the march.

Video: Mexicans march for peace

Tens of thousands of people of all social classes and ages marched across Mexico Saturday (August 30th 2008) in protest against high crime levels and rising kidnappings.

Anger has boiled over in the weeks since the death of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a wealthy businessman, whose body was found after his family reportedly paid millions of dollars to kidnappers.

At least two Mexico City police officers were suspected of involvement, provoking more fury among residents weary of endemic corruption and apparent impunity.

The Calderon government has struggled to show results from its 21-month-old offensive against organized crime.

More than 2,600 people have died this year in drug-related violence, according to unofficial counts by Mexican news outlets. [Los Angeles Times]

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1224487&dest=-1]

Alive In Baghdad founder detained in China

Brian Conley, who runs the award-winning video blog Alive in Baghdad, has been detained in Beijing whilst documenting pro-Tibet protests in the city running alongside the Olypmics.

Conley has been of incredible help to MexicoReporter.com, helping me with video editing and filming tips during the early days, and also helped the Frontline Club promote the Frontline Club live video channel. Conley has “dedicated his life to helping oppressed people communicate their struggles to the world. Since 2004 he has worked on the video blog Alive in Baghdad which produces and distributes weekly video segments about daily life in Iraq and the impact of the war,” says his wife Eowy.

According to an email from Eowyn – who is 31 weeks pregnant with their first child – Conley was arrested by Chinese authorities for this work, along with 5 others working with Students for a Free Tibet, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

As of about 8 pm Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, August 21 Brian and 5 others had been detained for approximately 77 hours, with no communication from them and minimal direct information from the Chinese authorities.

Earlier on Thursday, according to the Agency France Press the Beijing police disclosed that “Thomas” and 5 other unnamed activists had been sentenced to 10 days administrative detention for “upsetting public order.” We believe that the 6 detainees are Brian Conley, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

After 72 hours of detention, foreign governments are expected to inform local embassies of the detention of any foreign nationals. The US Embassy has been confirmed the names of the 6 detainees with the Chinese authorities. The Embassy has also been in touch with Eowyn and assured her that they are working diligently to gain access to Brian and the other detainees.

For more information about the detention of Brian Conley and 5 others in Beijing, please see www.freetibet2008.org . Please consider donating money to Students for a Free Tibet to support their work. To get regular updates about Brian’s situation or to arrange an interview with me (Eowyn Rieke, Brian’s wife), please email brian.conley.update@gmail.com.

Mexico church assailed for maligning miniskirt

Last week’s condemnation of the mini-skirt by the Mexican Catholic Church has enraged some Mexican women, who say that church’s statement that women should wear less provocative clothing makes it easier to justify rape and other forms of violence against them.

Last week’s statement, which advised women not to get into “spicy”conversations with men if they wanted to avoid rape and violence, saying:

“If you want to avoid sexual aggression….do not use provocative clothing…watch your glances…don’t be alone with a man, even if you know him…Don’t permit spicy chats or jokes… look for help  when you suspect bad intentions….”

Women protested in front of the cathedral in Mexico City’s Zocalo over the weekend – wearing miniskirts of course – and the statement has been lambasted by newspaper columnists and women’s rights activists.

“Guadalupe Loaeza, a renowned Mexican social commentator, said she worries the priest’s statements will be taken seriously and make it acceptable to blame the victim.

“”It gives rapists permission to say, ‘Well, she had on a miniskirt,'” Loaeza said. “What the church says has credibility – that’s why this type of statement is so dangerous.”” Associated Press.

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.