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Escape from Zacatecas

Forget about the swine flu, Mexico has been gripped a stunning jail break right out of Hollywood. The economy has its worst quarter since the 1995 tequila crisis. Nonetheless, the European Cup brings out revelers to joints like the Yuppie Sports Café.

 Top News: A prison escape of epic proportions grabbed the attention of Mexican media in the second half of May, dominating headlines for a week. Not one, ten or even 20 prisoners were busted out of the penitentiary in the mining state of Zacatecas on May 16, but a whopping 53 inmates escaped, including drug traffickers and killers.  Making the story even more unbelievable, the rescuers went in dressed as police along with a 17-car convoy and even a helicopter. Not a shot was fired.


The public was amazed about how it could be done. Then a video came out from a security camera showing the guards standing by as the prisoners poured out the cells. The wardens were either paid off or just too scared to intervene. Either way some heads had to roll. Zacatecas states’ Public Security Director was the first to take the flak, being fired on May 22.


But that wasn’t enough for some. A federal senator, Ricardo Monreal, called for the resignation of Zacatecas governor Amalia Garcia. She fought back by revealing that the army had seized 14.5 tons of marijuana in a warehouse owned by Monreal’s brother. Monreal claimed the whole thing was a plant and invited federal agents to investigate him.


Corruption scandals just don’t seem to stop in Mexico. On May 26, soldiers and federal agents arrested 27 public officials for alleged ties to drug gangs in President Felipe Calderon’s home state of Michoacan. The officials included 10 town mayors and several police chiefs. They had allegedly been working for a particularly gruesome drug gang called La Familia, which is a key trafficker of crystal meth to the United States. La Famila burst to fame in 2006 when they rolled five decapitated heads onto a disco dance floor.


It was not all drugs and thugs in May though. Mexico was also still battling the swine flu virus. By May 17, there had been 83 confirmed deaths from the A/H1N1 virus in Mexico out of a total of 101 worldwide. There were more than 4,900 confirmed cases of the flu altogether in Mexico and rising.


Still, health authorities were relieved that the bug wasn’t killing the thousands they first had feared. On May 21, the Mexico City government moved its traffic light contingency down to green – signaling the city could return to normal. The federal government was also trying hard to bring the tourists back in. Some reports showed they might be being successful. One report on British tour agents showed that there were even more bookings to Mexico than the same time last year. 


Money: Amid the corruption scandals and flu, Mexico’s economy continued to stumble through the world economic slowdown. Depressing figures for the first quarter showed the economy had shrunk a whole 8.2 percent compared to a year ago. It was the worst loss since the tequila crisis of 1995.


Finance Secretary Agustin Carstens subsequently revised his expectations for GDP losses over the whole year to 5.5 percent. However, he was still confident it would be back in growth by 2010. Mexico’s stock market or bolsa was up and down over the quarter gaining during several days in a row but losing modestly on May 27.


Elsewhere: One sector experiencing a temporary reprieve was the bar industry, with the end of the Mexican and European soccer seasons bringing in the sports fans to watch final games and guzzle beers. Bars were crowded during the UEFA Champions League final on May 27. Even bigger turnouts are anticipated for the Mexican two leg final on May 28 and May 31.


One colorful place for visitors to enjoy sports events is the aptly named Yuppie Sports Café in the trendy pink zone or Zona Rosa. Furthermore, the bar is not only big on soccer. Baseball, American football, golf or whatever is in season always fills its plentiful plasma screens.