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Drug violence hits Mexico economy


A bullet cartridge is circled in chalk on the street where a man was shot dead in Tijuana, Mexico

A bullet cartridge is circled in chalk on the street where a man was shot dead in Tijuana, Mexico

A bullet cartridge is circled in chalk on the street where a man was shot dead in Tijuana, Mexico

Some areas of Mexico along the US border have been paralysed economically by drug violence and the governor of the border state of Tamaulipas has called on the federal government should send relief funds.

Violence has affected tourism, commerce and investment, Gov. Eugenio Hernandez said during an anti-crime strategy meeting between Mexican state governors and President Felipe Calderon. People in Tamaulipas cities such as Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros on the border with Texas say bloody turf battles between drug gangs have caused a falloff in business. Much of the region's employment comes from foreign-owned border assembly plants.

"It is necessary to send additional funds to reactivate the economy in the affected zones," Hernandez said. "The climate of lack of safety has reduced the flow of foreign investment, and it is urgent that a promotional campaign be designed to improve the country's image."

Speaking on the other side of the border, US Ambassador Carlos Pascual agreed.

"Cartel-driven violence has moved southward to Mexico's business capital, Monterrey, forming a 'northeastern triangle' of violence among Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey," Pascual said. "The security environment in Monterrey has turned, in just months, from seeming benevolence to extreme violence," he said of Mexico's third-largest city and major industrial hub.

Hernandez suggested Mexico's federal government send soldiers and federal police to beef up border customs checkpoints to stop the flow of weapons from the United States.He also urged Calderon's government to transfer high-risk federal prisoners out of state prisons, saying that "we don't have the conditions" to hold them.

Calderon has been meeting with opposition parties, academics and civic groups as part of an unprecedented series of talks about his offensive against drug cartels - which has been criticized as making the country even less secure. More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence since Calderon launched the offensive in late 2006, sending thousands of troops to drug hot spots.

Calderon has used the forum to open the door to news ways of combating organised crimes, including stricter measures against money laundering and possibly the first-ever restrictions on cash transactions. He also said last week he would consider a debate on legalisation of drugs, though he personally opposes the idea.

He and many of the governors representing Mexico's 31 states agreed that more educational and job opportunities are needed for Mexican youth.

Youths "are probably the fertile ground from which the criminal organizations are drawing their strength," Calderon said. "They recruit them and they send them out to the front, literally, to die," he added.