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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkNews Around the Republic of Mexico 

Mexico's Richest City Hit by Drug Violence
email this pageprint this pageemail usRobin Emmott - Reuters
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July 08, 2010

A brutal war being fought by rival drug gangs near the U.S. border is terrifying residents of Mexico's richest city Monterrey, forcing dozens of its export factories to freeze investment. Here are some facts about the city 140 miles (230 km) from the border with Texas:

Nestled in picturesque mountains and home to 4 million people, Monterrey is one of Latin America's premier business cities. Home to 4 percent of Mexico's population, it generates about 8 percent of annual gross domestic product. Just a few hours drive from the U.S. border, the city has a Texan feel, with its car culture, Carl's Jr. hamburger restaurants and manicured parks.

Residents of Monterrey, known as "regios" for the mountainous region they live in, are famed for being staid, conservative and canny with money. Annual income per capita is double the Mexican average at $17,000, although still well below the Texas average of $38,000, according to University of Monterrey economists. In summer, wealthier regios flock to South Padre Island off the Texan coast. Many have adopted English words like "shopping", which they love to do in McAllen, also in Texas.

Monterrey is home to two top-flight Mexican soccer teams and major companies such as drinks maker FEMSA. FEMSA helped spark industrialization in Monterrey at the end of the 19th century, when the company's brewery attracted glass and steelmakers to bottle and cap its beer.

In 2002, Monterrey hosted a U.N. conference on combating global poverty attended by 50 world leaders. The city was chosen for its low crime rate, private universities and diversified economy based on manufacturing, trade and high-tech industries.

Monterrey started seeing serious drug violence in 2006 with the killing of a top police investigator, but it stayed relatively calm until this year when drug murders have leapt to an unprecedented 290 people, more than the past four years combined. The killings are due to a battle between the Gulf cartel and its old armed wing, the Zetas, over trafficking routes into the United States. The former allies split in early 2008 and their feud erupted into full-scale war in January as the Zetas, made up of elite former soldiers, try to run their own trafficking operation.

Monterrey was hit this month by Hurricane Alex, the first named storm of the 2010 Atlantic season, which dumped a year's worth of rain on the city in just three days, ripping away highways, houses, bridges and soccer pitches. A third of businesses suffered flooding and Alex caused $700 million in damages to infrastructure, homes and companies across the city. The clean-up could distract already overstretched authorities from their fight to beat back drug cartel violence.

(Editing by Catherine Bremer and Kieran Murray)

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