Sanchez this year closed a shop that had been opened by his grandfather in the 1930s. He carries no business cards, like many of his peers here, to protect his identity in case he’s kidnapped. His daughter has been carjacked at gunpoint. Close relatives and friends have been abducted.
“People here drive around without any documentation in their vehicles,” Tampico security official Graciela Tovar said. “Maybe they will steal your truck off the street. So what? Better that than having them get your documents and living with the fear that they’ll come to your house and kidnap you.”
(By Laris Karklis/The Washington PostThe Washington Post/The Washington Post)
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Who are Mexico’s presidential candidates?
Mexico’s presidential candidates
Few people answer calls from phone numbers they don’t recognize. Fewer still were willing to speak with foreign journalists. “On the surface, things look normal, but they are not,” said Carlos Heredia, a scholar at Mexico City’s Center for Economic Research and Teaching who is from Tampico. “It’s a small city. Everybody in politics and business knows each other, and I can tell you people are scared.”
Heredia said voters in Tampico are responding to Peña Nieto’s promise to focus on the crimes that hurt ordinary Mexicans the most — kidnapping, extortion, robbery — rather than trying to stop the global narcotics trade. But Heredia and others ask: How can you confront these types of crimes without going after the large mafias that sponsor and profit from it?
Like other troubled regions of the country, Tampico appears to be near a breaking point. The area continues to attract robust amounts of foreign investment, with chemical company DuPont putting $500 million into a new plant near the port and South Korean steelmaker POSCO planning to invest $300 million to double production at its local facility.
But members of Tampico’s business community and middle class say the flight will continue — to Texas, or the safer cities of central Mexico — until order is restored.
“Imagine if we had better security conditions,” said Rolando Ramirez, president of the local business owners’ association. “The economy here could really take off.”