Sunday, May 23, 2010

Why is it so hard to flee Mexico’s drug war?

It was one of the first cases of extortion since a deadly drug war had erupted in Juárez in 2008, and Kuchle didn’t cave in. The result was the end of his business. When the threats continued, Kuchle moved to El Paso, Tex. Now Aroma sits on a popular strip of Mesa St., not far from downtown. Same restaurant, except on the other side of the Rio Grande. “There’s no way I would go back,” Kuchle says. “Only crazy people can live over there.” More than 5,100 homicides later, the drug war has changed the way almost everyone lives in this city of 1.3 million. The poor hide behind closed doors. The wealthy have fled. Pharmacist José Monsiváis is sitting in a wooden chair facing the sidewalk doing, well, nothing. He says half of the businesses on the strip, many of them cantinas, bars and restaurants, have closed. There are no customers, especially American ones, anymore. The local chamber of commerce says 6,000 businesses have closed in the past nine months, many of them because of extortion. This city has gone from zero to 20 per cent unemployment in two years. Part of the reason is the global recession. But, Monsiváis insists, “the main reason is the violence in Juárez. A lot of people are afraid to come here.” Monsiváis says business is down 50 per cent. “I can’t pay the bills, food, gasoline.” De la Rosa says that more than 70,000 homes in Juárez have been abandoned, with more than 100,000 people having left for Texas or other cities in Mexico. (Other estimates suggest 250,000 have left.)El Paso’s police chief, Greg Allen, estimates 30,000 Juárenses have legally crossed and are now living in his city. Many say that’s a low...more

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