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Marines gun down druglord. Predator drones to border. Remittances back up. Drug diamonds up for auction.
It was one of the bloodiest weeks in Mexico’s recent history. In late October, Mexico suffered four massacres in seven days, claiming the lives of 48 victims – as well as dozens of other ambushes, dumped bodies and shoot-outs. The massacres took place in Juarez, Tijuana, Nayarit and Mexico City, all characterized by masked gunmen opening fire on large groups. Tragically, most of the victims were under 25, with the youngest just 13 years old. In Mexico, pundits, priests and politicians screamed that the nation needs to take a hard look at what is happening to its youth.
Students in Ciudad Juarez marched to protest the toll on young people. But the demonstration itself turned to violence when federal police shot a protester in the back, sending him to hospital in critical condition. Police officers claimed they had been pursuing cartel gunmen when they ran into masked students and fired warning shots in the air. But angry students marched again demanding justice. Violence has also been hitting students from the university over the border in El Paso. On Nov. 2, gunmen shot dead two UTEP students in Juarez.
Mexico’s government argues it is hitting the gangsters back harder than ever. On Nov. 5, marines killed the head of the Gulf Cartel, Antonio Ezequiel Cardenas, alias Tony Tormenta, in the city of Matamoros, over the border from Brownsville, Texas. The death came during a shootout that lasted several hours in broad daylight, unleashing 300 grenades and shutting international bridges. At least five other gangsters, five marines and a journalist died in the fighting. President Barack Obama himself congratulated Mexican President Felipe Calderon on the killing. But analysts speculated that when so many other kingpins have been brought down, it may only lead to more violence.
Faced with all this bloodshed, many Mexicans are taking the law into their own hands. The latest bit of vigilante action hit Juarez, when a gang torched the house of a 19-year-old girl arrested for being part of a kidnapping gang. Several family members, including her baby daughter were burned. The girl – Eunice Ramirez – had also worked as a model and lured kidnap victims with her good looks.
On the U.S. side of the border, increased concern over security has led to the deployment of a new line of defense: drones. The predator drones developed in Iraq and Afghanistan will be run out of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection base in Arizona. “Pilots” will operate the remote controlled devices from the tarmac. Officials said they will be used to identify rather than gun down targets. They will be looking out for drug gangs and illegal migrants.
After two years of slumps, remittances sent back from the United States are forecast to be up again this year. According to projections by the World Back, Mexicans will send home $22.6 billion by the end of 2010, up from $21.1 billion last year. The money could represent improvements in the U.S. economy where the majority of Mexicans abroad work, although it may also mean that people south of the border are asking for more. Mexico is the nation that receives the third highest amount of remittances, followed by India and Chine — at $55 billion and $51 billion, respectively.
Mexico’s car factories also said they saw hikes. Mexico’s production of cars and light trucks in October was up 20 percent compared to the year-ago month, the National Automobile Industry Association announced on Nov. 9. In the new total, 220,708 units were churned out — the highest volume achieved in the history of the production of light vehicles in Mexico.
In other good news for Mexican industry, a Mexican baker made a major acquisition in the United States. Grupo Bimbo signed an agreement to acquire North American fresh bakery business of Sara Lee Corporation for $959 million. The brand is behind such popular names as Arnold, Brownberry and Oroweat. Bimbo officials said they would not make any immediate changes in these products.
For anyone looking to acquire 12.25-carat diamond on a gold ring, or a new plane, a chance has opened. The Mexican government said it is auctioning off such items and many others that have been seized from drug barons. The diamond ring will start bidding at 1.4 million pesos or about $114,000. Other items include luxury watches such as a Audemars Piget, Royal Oak model.