I’VE just written a story for this week’s paper about the feared (but apparently ailing) firm of Mexican drug-runners, La Familia Michoacana. Among the many people who quake at the mention of these outlaws are English-language journalists, who face the headache of whether to translate the mob to plain old “The Family” or use the more exotic (and better-known) Spanish name. In the end we stuck to the Spanish original, with a translation in parentheses on first mention. (Reuters does something similar; the Associated Press leaves La Familia untranslated.)
One of Latin America’s most troubled nations has its most popular president
Dec 16th 2010 | SAN SALVADOR
THE mess faced by Mauricio Funes when he was elected president of El Salvador last year suggested he was in for a bumpy ride. Rampant gang violence produced the world’s highest murder rate in 2009. Amid the global financial crisis the economy shrank by 3.6%, one of the biggest drops in the region. El Salvador is not an easy place to govern. Yet 18 months later 79% of voters back Mr Funes, making him Latin America’s most popular leader.
Taking out the leaders of drug gangs has not quelled the mayhem
Dec 16th 2010 | MEXICO CITY
There’s more where he came from
IN A firefight that lasted more than two days and claimed three civilian lives, the leader of one of Mexico’s most feared mobs was shot dead. The victim was Nazario Moreno, nicknamed “The Craziest One”, who headed La Familia (“The Family”), a mafia outfit based in the state of Michoacán. Mr Moreno, author of a spiritual self-help book known as the Family Bible, was tracked down after organising a lavish party that the police got wind of.
MEXICO’S presidential election is still some 18 months away, but candidates are already starting to jockey for position. A poll today in El Universal, a Mexican newspaper, gives an insight into how the race currently stands.
SUN, sea and severed heads: Mexico is not a holiday destination for the faint-hearted. Foreign news coverage of the government’s crackdown on organised crime, which has seen some 30,000 people die in the past four years (most of them drug traffickers), has given the impression that the country is “burning from the Rio Grande to the border with Guatemala,” Mexico’s ambassador to the United States complained this month. For an economy that relies on tourism for nearly a tenth of its income, the gruesome headlines are painful.
Yet Mexico’s tourism sector is doing rather well. After an appalling 2009, in which the outbreak of swine flu emptied hotels overnight, the number of visitors this year will be close to 2008’s record total of 22.6m. Even excluding 50m annual day-trippers, Mexico remains the world’s tenth most-visited country. The numbers in August were the highest-ever for that month, despite a bomb attack on a United States consulate a few months earlier.
ORGANISED crime appears to have claimed another prominent political scalp in Mexico. Jesús Silverio Cavazos Ceballos, who served as governor of the tiny state of Colima until November 2009, was gunned down by three men outside his home yesterday morning. So far the killers, who arrived in a Jeep that had been reported stolen in the state of Querétaro, have not been found, nor a motive established.
María Félix warmed hearts and bottom lines in the golden age
WHEN the Morelia International Film Festival began in 2003, the organisers struggled to find a home-grown release with which to open it. This year’s festival, which took place last month, was spoilt for choice. The number of films made each year in Mexico has trebled in the past decade (to around 70), largely thanks to a big increase in state funding. Last year the government gave out $73.3m in grants and tax breaks to Mexican producers; this year it will also offer rebates to foreigners who make their films in Mexico.
THE mosquito-infested jungle near the mouth of the San Juan river seems of little value. But to Daniel Ortega, who in a year’s time plans to seek a third, unconstitutional, term as president of Nicaragua, the sticky marshland is proving useful. The right bank of the river marks Nicaragua’s border with Costa Rica. The two countries have squabbled over navigation rights for more than a century. But last month Nicaragua went further: a group of Nicaraguans dredging the river set up camp on the Costa Rican side, backed by about 50 soldiers. That prompted Costa Rica to send 70 police to the border and to call in the Organisation of American States to mediate (it wants both sides to withdraw and talk).
EVERYONE knows that Brazil is the beating business heart of Latin America, right? Maybe not, according to the World Bank. A report published this week found that Mexico was the easiest place in Latin America in which to run a company, closely followed by Peru and Colombia. Worldwide, Mexico came 35th, beating the likes of Spain and Italy. Brazil came 127th.
The red tape that ties down businesses is being modestly pruned around the world. But there is still an awful lot left to cut
Nov 4th 2010 | LAGOS AND MEXICO CITY
THE streets outside are searingly hot, noisy and pot-holed. But Tunde Oyekunle’s air-conditioned office is an oasis of calm. Mr Oyekunle runs a property consultancy in Lagos, Nigeria’s business capital. He is also setting up a company to make window-frames and other fittings. “You’re expected to keep jumping through the obstacle course—and to enjoy it,” he says of the constant frustrations of being an entrepreneur in such a chaotic country.
CALIFORNIANS voted last night not to legalise cannabis. The margin of victory—56% to 44%, according to initial projections—was wider than some polls had suggested. Legalisers have vowed to try again in 2012, but the “no” camp is buoyant. “If they think they are going to be back in two years, they must be smoking something,” said Tim Rosales, head of the anti-pot campaign.
Despite Chinese competition, Mexico’s exports are growing. But the country is still not taking full advantage of its trade agreement with the United States
Oct 28th 2010 | MONTERREY
Tuning up the engine of trade
AT THE moment it is just a thousand hectares of mud on the outskirts of Monterrey, a bustling industrial city in northern Mexico. Soon it should be the “Interpuerto”, a customs-clearing zone to speed goods on their way to the United States via two rail lines and the motorways to which it will be connected. The aim of the $2 billion project, backed by the state government of Nuevo León and private investors, is to allow cargoes to skip the long queues at customs posts on the border, 240km (150 miles) to the north.
TALKING to other people in English is easy: they are all “you”. No distinction between formal and informal, nor between singular and plural: a lone friend is “you”; a roomful of strangers is “you” too. Many other languages have four different personal pronouns where English makes do with one.
THE eighth annual Morelia International Film Festival, which came to an end yesterday in the Mexican state of Michoacán, featured a full programme of new releases, international premieres and sections curated by or dedicated to directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Terry Gilliam. But the most interesting screenings were not the latest releases but some of the oldest. Serge Bromberg, a French director and obsessive collector of vintage film reels, presented a collection of his best recent finds from second-hand shops and attics around the world, restored and filleted down to a fascinating hour.
Read the rest here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2010/10/morelia_international_film_festival
SEVENTY metres (230 feet) long and slathered with cream and cheese, the world’s biggest enchilada was cooked up in a suburb of Mexico City on October 17th. The 1.4-tonne lunch was certified by Guinness World Records, then devoured.
Read the rest here: http://www.economist.com/node/17314636
NEXT time you are delayed at Heathrow airport’s Terminal 5, here’s a fun game to help you while away the hours. It’s called “Find the drinking fountain”, and it’s guaranteed to keep you busy during the longest of delays.
Read the rest here: http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2010/10/heathrow_airport
The drugs trade has spread corruption and violence across Mexico. Can the police ever catch up with them?
Oct 14th 2010 | MONTERREY
THE drugs business, as Miguel tells it, used to offer a promising career for a young man. At 4am he would set out into the sierra of Sinaloa to pick up cannabis. Back in the city of Culiacán he would pack it for export, compressing it with a hydraulic pump, wrapping it in polythene and dunking it in wax to trick the sniffer dogs. The packets would go in trucks, cars, even on push-bikes. Once, in a friend’s Cessna, he skimmed the treetops south to Colombia, dropping packets of cocaine over the Mexican desert on the way back.
Read the rest here: http://www.economist.com/node/17249102