MEXICO’S national media have followed every gruesome twist of the government’s battle with organised crime. But in some of the most dangerous areas, local papers are curiously short on details. Last year five newspapers admitted in print that they would stop covering sensitive drug-war stories, such was the risk to their reporters. The year also saw 15 attacks on media offices, up from two in 2009, according to Article 19, a free-speech lobby group. The gangs are even dictating copy. Imagen, a daily in the state of Zacatecas, ran an article last year attacking the army on the orders of a mafia that had kidnapped one of its reporters. Milenio, a TV station, ran part of a mob-scripted report after some of its staff were abducted.
With the traditional media silenced, Mexicans have gone online in search of news. But that now looks risky too. On September 13th two bodies were found hanging from a bridge in Nuevo Laredo, on Mexico’s northern border, with a sign promising the same treatment to all “gossips on the internet”. The notice named two drug-war-focused sites to which the murdered pair had supposedly contributed.
IT IS the season of informes in Mexico, when the president and state governors deliver state-of-the-union-type reports on what they have been up to. This year Enrique Peña Nieto, the outgoing governor of Mexico state and the early front-runner in next year’s presidential election, used his September 5th informe to mark the unofficial launch of his presidential bid.
Prominent in his address was the stunning claim that the murder rate in Mexico state had fallen by more than half during his six-year term. “One of the most illustrative achievements that we have is the reduction in murders per 100,000 people, from 16.5 in 2005 to 7.6 in 2010,” he said (you can watch it here at about 1:05). This was particularly amazing given that the national murder rate more than doubled during the same period. Anyone doubting Mr Peña’s word could see the numbers for themselves in the print version of his informe (here, on page 222, under “homicidios dolosos”).
BLISS spreads across Lalo’s face as his glossy black locks are blown dry by cooing stylists. Dogs big and small are beautified for 100 pesos ($7.70) in the back of a perspex-walled van run by Fluffy Shower, a mobile pet-salon that visits Mexico City’s posh neighbourhoods to apply shampoo and ribbons to upper-class animals. The sharpest dogs sport green, white and red jerseys to mark Independence Day on September 16th. Next month pet boutiques will sell Halloween pumpkin outfits and dainty witches’ hats.
Pet care is booming in emerging markets, as the growing middle class stops buying dogs for security (or dinner) and starts doting on them. Nowhere has the fashion taken off as quickly as in Latin America. In the past five years spending on pet food and knick-knacks has risen by 44%, to $11 billion, according to Euromonitor, a market-research firm, which estimates that Chile has more pet dogs per person than any other country. Latin pets may be the world’s most fashionable. As Mexico’s rainy season tails off, dogs are stepping out of designer shoes to show off painted claws.
Sep 10th 2011 | GUATEMALA CITY | from the print edition
FROM hoardings plastered all over Guatemala, the stern face of Otto Pérez Molina stares out beside the clenched-fist logo of his Patriot Party. General Pérez, as he was known until hanging up his rifle in 2000, was once the Guatemalan army’s intelligence director. After coming second in the 2007 presidential race, he is the front-runner in this year’s election on September 11th. Should he win, he will be the first military man to become president since army rule ended in 1986. He promises to crush crime with amano dura, or iron fist, by extending sentences, hiring 10,000 police, expanding video surveillance and lowering the age of criminal responsibility.
GUATEMALA goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president. The favourite is Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general, whom we look at in detail in this week’s print edition. Absent from the ballot is Sandra Torres, the former first lady, who divorced Álvaro Colom, the president, in April in order to get around a constitutional ban on relatives of the president running to succeed him. The Constitutional Court threw out her candidacylast month, leaving the ruling party without a candidate.
Ms Torres had been Mr Pérez’s closest rival, according to most surveys. And yet oddly, her disqualification appears to have damaged him in the polls. According to one tracking poll published in Siglo 21, a newspaper, back in July Mr Pérez was on 53%, with Ms Torres on 16%. The same newspaper reported a couple of days ago that, with Ms Torres out of the race, Mr Pérez’s share had fallen eight points, to 45%.