This video report, by independent news reporter Bill Neely, was recently aired in the United States.
By Bill Neely Feb. 16, 2011
As you drive past the steakhouses,sushi bars and skyscrapers there’s not a hint that anything is wrong in Monterrey, marvel of Mexico, once the base for England’s World Cup team. It is after all,one of the jewels of Latin America,consistently voted the best city for business,the nicest to live in,the safest in the continent. Or at least it was.
The illusion is powerful.You can still see the gleaming red Porsches in the showroom window. In fact every one of them is sold. The problem is that their owners don’t want to pick them up. They’re scared. Scared that if they drive their new badge of wealth and achievement home,or around their city,they’ll become an instant target for kidnappers;another victim of the violence that threatens to destroy this city.
Monterrey is changing, fast.
A year ago, its wealthy middle class was still able look on, from afar, at the horror engulfing other Mexican cities, like Tijuana and Juarez. Drug cartels were locked in a deadly embrace that was killing tens of thousands and sucking in tens of thousands of Federal troops and police. But it had nothing to do with Monterrey.
That,however, was always an illusion. Because Monterrey, Mexico’s business capital, was where many drug cartel leaders chose to settle their families. Monterrey was where they laundered much of their money. Monterrey’s wealthy chose to look the other way. But the gated mansions of its rich neighbourhoods contained dirty secrets; their owners knew, literally, where the bodies were buried. Monterrey is now paying the price for years of turning a blind eye to the cartels killers and drug barons in their midst.
I met the mayor of one of these rich suburbs. He had a wonderful office filled with dazzlingly bright painting from fine Mexican artists. He was urbane and articulate,and almost convincing. He said his area didn’t suffer from the problems of other Monterrey districts. He kept a tight grip on security. I left, impressed.
Until there was a shootout streets away from his office a few days later that left seven dead. Nowhere in Monterrey is immune any more.
Last year one of the seven main cartels that are fighting for control of Mexico’s drug trade, decided they would muscle in on Monterrey. The result has been a bloodbath. Not just between cartels- three have now joined forces to fight the resident strongmen from the Zetas- but between the cartels and the Federal forces.
There is a burgeoning war in Monterrey between the state and cartel gunmen. A few days ago a state intelligence chief was murdered in the city.Twenty policemen were shot dead in January. This week a US Customs and Immigration agent was shot dead on the road between Monterrey and Mexico City. The war is coming to the shining city.
Grenade attacks in broad daylight; gunbattles in lovely suburbs; a downtown hotel taken over by dozens of gunmen who took five guests from the sixth floor and murdered them; triple assassinations by the handful; gangs with anti-aircraft guns; a half naked woman hanged from a bridge and left to dangle for half a day; a car bomb outside a restaurant; a city of four million whose nightlife is dying because people are now too scared to go out at night.
It's not where England would want to put their star players any more.
“If Monterrey is lost”,I was told, ”everything is lost". The war that has already claimed 35,000 lives in four years is spreading like a bloodstain. And this city of red Porsches, rare steaks and fine red wine is feeling the heat of its deadly embrace.