Gang wars decimate border

By Administrator |

Local people, businessmen and all tourism-related industries in certain key locations along the Mexican side of the US/Mexican border are suffering extremely badly from the escalating violence, daily killings and intimidation, with many key border

crossings periodically closed and obvious negative implications for duty free border-store operators on the US side.

The extent of the problem is huge. In key Mexican border towns there have been no fewer than 16,000 killings in the last three years and thousands of people have disappeared, as rival gangs fight to dominate the supply chain of cannabis and cocaine to the US, a 'market' said to have been worth around $15bn last year.

While Mexican and US forces continue to try and reduce both the drugs trafficking and the associated violence and killings, border business of all types has simply halted when border crossings have been closed and the traffic simply disappears.

FEW WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT
Needless to say, this is not a subject that many locals like to talk about for understandable reasons, but the fact is that the situation has become lawless, despite the Mexican Government declaring war on the drugs barons and the US pledging $1.4bn in aid for Mexico.

These gangs are also just as heavily armed as the 50,000 Mexican soldiers and police that President Felipe Calderon has deployed to find them – with 90% of their weapons purchased in the US – courtesy of the relaxed laws on gun ownership in parts of the US. These purchases include multiple heavy armour-piercing rocket launchers, as well as AK47's and machine guns.

Thousands of people have now either died or disappeared as these gangs try to control certain crossing points as conduits for the supply of cannabis and cocaine into the United States.

Tijuana has become one of Mexico's most notorious border towns where there have been 600 executions in the last year, while Ciudad Juarez – across the Rio Grande from El Paso Texas – has witnessed 2,500 last year and is now officially classified as the most violent city on earth.

BLACKMAIL AND INTIMIDATION
Gangs increasingly look to recruit locals to ferry drugs over the border, or assist with smuggling and extortion, but if these individuals refuse then there are often harsh reprisals for the person concerned or their family.

Tijuana used to be one of the most popular short break tourist towns, but not anymore and the same goes for several other border locations.For example, more than 5,000 shops have now closed in the last four years in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and the State of Chihuahua (where Juarez is located) has confirmed that around 200,000 people have left Ciudad Juarez in the last 18 months – more than 10% of its entire 1.5m population.

Ciudad Juarez is regarded as strategically vital by the traffickers since it is located right in the middle of the US/Mexican border, and has extensive road and rail links which penetrate deep into the United States.

A FUTURE GHOST TOWN?
Many of the businesses and their owners – retailers in particular – have preferred to close their businesses and move on rather than pay extortion money to ensure that they and what trade they have left remain physically intact. This intimidation has also been felt in the neighbouring area of El Paso.

This lawlessness is also a major threat to the maquiladora factories in these towns that reassemble imported materials and then re-export the finished product, mainly to the US.

Another huge long-term problem for all retailers on both sides of the border in these problem towns is the mass exodus of wealthy and middle-class families that have already deserted the towns in favour of safer Mexican cities like Guadalajara and Monterrey.

As a result, Ciudad Juarez in particular is now said to be in economic crisis, with a lack of skilled workers in many sectors. At the same time, US companies initially attracted to opening up on the Mexican side by lower labour costs are also said to be reducing their investments in the city because of the violence.

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