As Mexico’s drug war spreads to new, formerly safe areas, the growing security threat is undermining economic growth in Monterrey, the country’s once-booming financial capital.Today’s Washington Post offers a depressing portrayal of how escalating drug violence has transformed Mexico’s wealthiest city into a bloody battlefield on the front lines of Mexico’s drug war:
As Mexico’s wealthiest urban area, Monterrey is a symbol of the country’s aspirations, with a well-educated workforce, leading universities, thousands of U.S. and other foreign business executives, and a per capita income twice the national average. But today the city is at the front of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s U.S.-backed drug war, and its future is clouded by lawlessness. As one top executive here said, “If Monterrey is lost, all is lost.”
Until recently, the city’s chic shopping plazas and shady streets filled with joggers seemed more like Houston than Ciudad Juarez, the gritty, low-wage manufacturing town along the Texas border that is being depopulated by eight homicides a day. But the same qualities that made Monterrey appealing to investors – good schools, exclusive neighborhoods, upscale restaurants – made it attractive to bosses of the Gulf cartel and its main rival, Los Zetas.
The two mafias are locked in vicious competition at a particularly inopportune time for Monterrey. With the U.S. economy rebounding and labour costs rising in China, the city is poised for another boom. But a surge in violence is putting the economy at risk.
Like other parts of Mexico, Monterrey has seen a rapid escalation in gratuitous and extreme drug violence. The city’s murder rate more than tripled last year to 828 and more than 200 people have been killed so far this year.
The drug wars now threaten to deter economic development and plunge Monterrey into lawlessness. Companies, however, are not pulling out yet. But as wealthy Mexicans hightail it for safer cities, foreign investors won’t be far behind.
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