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U.S. Consulate murders in Juarez

The brutal murder of U.S. diplomats prompts a passionate presidential speech as well as drug war protests. Shootouts in Acapulco leave dozens dead during spring break. Carlos Slim is the world’s richest. The government plans austerity measures. And St. Patrick’s Day revelers hail an Irish brigade that fought the U.S. for Mexico.


The brutal murder of three people – including two Americans – linked to the U.S. consulate in the border city of Ciudad Juarez sent shockwaves through the diplomatic mission in Mexico. Officials were all asking the crucial question: are drug cartels now deliberately targeting American officials because of the U.S. War on Drugs? If the answer is yes, it could make the work of the U.S. embassy and consulates in Mexico extremely difficult.

President Felipe Calderon went quickly to Juarez to condemn the killings and promise the fight would go on.  "Americans and Mexicans, we must fight and win like allies, each in his own territory," he said in an emotional speech. But some residents of the battle-worn city were not convinced by the war talk, protesting the president’s visit and arguing a new approach is needed.

The bloodshed also returned to Mexico’s seaside resort of Acapulco. On the weekend of March 13 and March 14, shootouts, ambushes, and running  battles left dozens of bodies on the streets. It is not the first time that the Pacific city – which is a strategic point for drugs heading north – has been rattled by cartel turf wars. But the latest violence was particularly brutal and occurred bang in the middle of spring break, rattling already nervous students, parents and officials.

But while some Mexican hotels are losing business, other Mexicans just keep getting richer. Forbes new billionaire list was published and declared Mexican telecoms magnet Carlos Slim as the world’s richest man. The 70-year old son of Lebanese shopkeepers weighed in with a whopping $53.5 billion, ahead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. Slim made his gains by expanding his cell phone operation all over Latin America, and making Mexico into a virtual “slimlandia” of his affiliate businesses. He also owns part of the New York Times.

The billionaire also offered his advice on getting Mexico out of its whirlwind of trouble. In a conference, he said the government needs to invest massively in infrastructure to give people jobs as an alternative to crime and violence. Furthermore, he traveled to his ancestral home of Lebanon in his new-found position as the world’s richest man. The Lebanese, he said, needed education and critical thinking to move their country forward.

Critical thinking back in Mexico is getting increasingly difficult, especially for journalists. On Mar. 12, gunmen shot dead the 33-year old reporter Evaristo Pacheco and dumped his body on a road. He is the fourth Mexican journalist to have been killed this year, indicating that 2010 could be even more deadly than 2009 when 12 Mexican journalists were killed. Such violence has terrorized many Mexican news organizations, making them limit their reporting and there was a virtual media blackout to violence in Reynosa this month.

Money: The Mexican government announced an austerity plan on general spending to try to save $3 billion to stimulate growth.  Among the measures is a freeze on pay rises for middle and top level officials. But some opposition politicians argue that the plan is not good enough. While the government is cutting with one hand, it is increasing spending with another, they say.

In one positive sign, Mexico opened two new factories to build parts for Boeing and Airbus aircraft. President Felipe Calderon said the plants run by French supplier Safran signaled a return to growth in Mexico. He also said such work could one day make Mexico an independent power in the aerospace industry. 

Officials said the economic recovery should also lead to a growth in merger and acquisitions this year. Eduardo Perez Motta, president of the Federal Competition Commission – the government’s antitrust agency said the government has already vetted 18 such deals in the first two months and he expected a large volume throughout the spring. Economists expect Mexico’s economy to grow about 4 percent this year after shrinking by 6.5 percent in 2009.

Elsewhere: On St Patrick´s Day on March 17, people raised glasses of Guinness in Dublin, Boston and even Mexico. Many celebrated 160 years of the so-called St. Patrick’s Batallion, a brigade of Irish Catholics who began to fight with the United States against Mexico but then switched sides. They were hanged for their efforts but are celebrated as heroes south of the border.