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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.

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]

Video: The thrill of the Huamantlada

Watch last weekend’s festivities in Huamantla, Mexico in which 23 people were injured trying to challenge 500-kilo bulls.

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.

Mini-skirts banned to stop “provoking” rape in Mexico

A Mexican university has banned miniskirts and other “provocative clothing” in an effort to stop “provoking” violent attacks against women.

Héctor Melesio Cuen Ojeda, rector of the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said that minskirts worn by many of the pupils are an invitation for attacks both inside and outside the university, according to El Universal.

He advised the women among the university’s 46,000 pupils to lower their skirts to knee-level. Continue reading

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

Mexico’s HIV-positive orphans look to the future

Oscar, above, is 10 years old and his favorite subject at school is math. He wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. Oscar also is HIV-positive, and he lost his parents to complications with the virus two years ago.

He lives in a community of children here at La Casa de la Sal (the House of Salt) in Mexico City. All of the 25 children in the home have been orphaned by HIV and have the virus themselves.

An estimated 2,934 children ages 14 and younger have HIV/AIDS in Mexico, according to Mexico’s national center for the Control and Prevention of Aids (CENSIDA) (link to PDF). Those are just the cases that have been detected, and there is a lack of reliable statistics on the issue.

Oscar and his friends are the lucky ones. La Casa, which has been open for 22 years, gives them access to antiretroviral drugs that may allow the children to live long enough to fulfill their ambitions.

Read more Mexico’s HIV-positive orphans look to the future »

This post was written for La Plaza.

Mexican public give their view on oil reform

"I decide".

A bitter debate on how to rescue Mexico’s troubled state-owned oil company went directly to the people on Sunday as capital residents voted on President Felipe Calderon’s plan to open some portions of Mexico’s nationalized petroleum industry to outsiders.

This video went with this Los Angeles Times report.