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Brazen, even by Mexican standards

Gangsters attack army garrisons, and kill scholarship students. Authorities arrest a man in connection with the U.S. Consulate murders. An American student is beat into a coma in Cancun. Mexico City’s smog abates. Ministers meeting in Mexico foresee $25 trillion in energy investment over the next two decades. And millions gather to witness the world’s biggest passion play.

 Top News: Even by the standards of Mexico’s catastrophic drug war, the attacks were brazen. Gunmen rolled up to two army garrisons, blocked the exits with bulletproof vehicles and then launched an incessant attack with grenades and rifle fire. The army hit back hard and managed to kill 18 attackers in a series of firefights. But the message to soldiers had been delivered: even in your garrisons you are not safe.

The public isn’t feeling very safe on the streets either. In a particular horrific atrocity, ten students on their way to receive scholarships were on killed by gunmen in the state of Durango. The students, aged between 8 and 21, apparently failed to stop at a road checkpoint set up by gangsters who control the area. The attack was in the middle of Mexico’s Golden Triangle, where large amounts of heroin, marijuana, and crystal meth are produced.  

Authorities are hitting back with some arrests though. On Mar. 29, Mexican police detained a 45 year old gang member who they alleged was involved in the killing of three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez. The suspect, Ricardo Valles de la Rosa is described as a leader of the Barrio Azteca, a gang that operates in the United States and Mexico. In a subsequent statement, authorities alleged that the Juarez attacks had targeted American victim Arthur H. Redelfs, because of his work at a county jail in El Paso.

Such violence does not help Mexico’s tourist industry. In another blow to Mexico’s image as a sunny get away for Americans, a spring breaker was beaten into a coma in the resort of Cancun. The 21 year old Joseph "Zeke" Rucker, a recent graduate from Rutgers University, N.J., was reportedly sitting poolside late at night, when he had his skull smashed in by a mysterious attacker. He is fighting for his life in a hospital in Miami.

Mexican news has been dominated by another brutal murder mystery on the outskirts of the capital. Four year old Paulette Gebara Farah was found suffocated under her own bed in a luxury apartment. The parents had originally reported that the girl had been kidnapped, setting off a widespread hunt. The mother is now the chief suspect in the killing. Her daughter suffered from speaking and walking difficulties.

Some Mexicans are now saying that enough is enough. In the industrial city of Monterrey, more than 7,000 people dressed in white and marched in protest at the wave of violence. Many released white balloons and white doves in calls for peace.

But if there is a cloud of violence hanging over Mexico, at least one another cloud is being cleared; that of smog. After being a byword for polluted megacities in the 1980s, Mexico City has now cleaned up its act and air. Reducing factory and car pollution, has allowed clearer days where one can see snowcapped volcanoes dozens of miles away.

Money: Mexico’s finance ministry keeps looking on the bright side, raising its growth forecast for 2010 to 4.1 percent. The increased estimated, announced on Mar. 31, was attributed to improvement in the U.S. economy, which receives about 80 percent of Mexican exports. The finance ministry added that infrastructure spending and internal consumer spending in Mexico are also expected to stimulate growth.

A report by the International Monetary Fund released in March also acknowledged that Mexico is making a solid recovery, following its devastating recession last year. The report said that financial reforms over the last decade had helped Mexico weather the crisis, but added that more structural changes are needed to stimulate growth.

Energy ministers met in the Mexican resort of Cancun in late March to discuss future challenges in the 12th International Energy Forum. In a joint statement, the ministers said the world will have to invest $25 trillion over the next two decades to satisfy energy demand. Some ministers at the forum also criticized the United States, for failing to regulate the prices of oil and other fuels.

Elsewhere: Mexico prepared to hold its annual enactment of the world’s biggest passion play on April 2, or Good Friday. The event, in the Iztapalapa neighborhood in Mexico City, transforms huge chunks of the urban landscape into ancient Jerusalem and has some 2 million visitors. Dozens of volunteers drag crosses through the streets while they are flogged in the ceremonies. Major celebrations are also held during the Holy Week or Semana Santa across Mexico.