CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico – About 80 business owners in Ciudad Juarez, a border city that has become Mexico’s murder capital, attended a seminar on how to move their operations to neighboring El Paso, Texas, business networking group La Red said.
The seminar, which took place on Tuesday and featured immigration lawyers, real estate agents and bankers from El Paso, provided participants with information on visa application procedures and requirements for establishing new corporations or moving companies currently based in Ciudad Juarez, La Red, which organized the event, said.
About 300 bars and 4,000 restaurants have closed in Ciudad Juarez since 2009 because of the violence in the city, the Restaurant and Prepared Foods Industry Association says.
Business owners have been targeted by attacks, kidnappers and extortionists linked to drug cartels and other gangs.
Many businesses have closed out of fear or lack of customers in the city’s increasingly empty streets.
Ciudad Juarez has been plagued by drug-related violence for years.
The murder rate took off in the gritty border city of 1.5 million people in 2007, when 310 people were killed, then it more than tripled to 1,607 in 2008, according to Chihuahua state Attorney General’s Office figures, with the number of killings climbing to 2,754 in 2009.
More than 3,100 people were murdered in the border city last year, making 2010 the worst year since a war between rival drug gangs sent the homicide rate skyrocketing in 2008.
The killing has not slowed this year, with more than 400 people murdered in Juarez, the state AG’s office said.
The violence is blamed on a war for control of the border city being waged by the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels with backing from hitmen from local street gangs.
A total of 15,270 people died in drug-related violence in Mexico last year, and more than 34,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the country’s cartels shortly after taking office in December 2006.
Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers and Federal Police officers across the country to combat drug cartels and other criminal organizations.
The anti-drug operation, however, has failed to put a dent in the violence due, according to experts, to drug cartels’ ability to buy off the police and even high-ranking officials. EFE