Laredo’s image hammered by drug violence

Far worse than image problems, the old “Centro” historic district is withering rapidly. The American tourists and tour buses stopped coming years ago, and Mexican shoppers are deterred by the long bridge lines and the dangers of Nuevo Laredo.

An employee works on a storefront display at a perfume store a block away from International Bridge No. 1 in downtown Laredo. Business in the city has been hurt as its sister community, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, has seen a rise in violence.

The official welcome for the Logistics and Manufacturing Symposium here last week was delivered by Mayor Raul Salinas, who gave a rousing endorsement of his booming border city.

“Laredo is open for business. Make sure you enjoy this safe and wonderful city,” he told the assembled customs brokers, manufacturers and transporters, American and Mexican, and all involved in the auto industry.

Salinas spoke with passion about the importance of cross-border cooperation and friendship, and Nuevo Laredo Mayor Benjamin Galvan offered similar sentiments. The two mayors then shared a hearty “abrazo.”

And by most measures, Laredo, the busiest land port to Mexico, is doing very well. The city is growing, violent crime is down and spillover from drug-war violence in Mexico is minimal, police say.

But when a city shares a name and a riverfront with a neighbor that is home to a violent drug mafia, where bodies are hung from bridges and even the mayor’s office gets bombed, the perception elsewhere can get blurry.

“The assumption is Laredo is not safe. We’ve had to respond when people were calling Laredo a war zone,” Salinas said afterward.


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