Cleaning up Mexico’s tarnished image

Mexican President Felipe Calderon
is launching a global public relations campaign to try to improve his country’s
image and neutralize coverage of the violent drug war scaring away tourists and
foreign investors.

Calderon declared all-out war on
drug cartels on taking office in late 2006, sending thousands of troops and
federal police across Mexico to take on the heavily armed gangs
running a multibillion dollar business.

The strategy has so far failed to
curb violence and more than 23,000 people have died in drug violence over the
past 3-1/2 years. Daily images of gruesome decapitations, charred and tortured
bodies hung from bridges and brazen daytime shootouts are commonplace on the
front pages of newspapers and evening news broadcasts.

Calderon, a strong-willed
conservative, says he is turning to private advertising firms to launch an
international image improvement campaign to show the world another, less
violent side of Mexico, a country that depends on some 20
million tourists a year to boost its public finances.

“We are promoting a
comprehensive advertising project in my government, primarily public relations,
and we are hiring the best agencies in the world promote Mexico‘s
image,” Calderon said this week during a speech in the northern state of
Baja California Sur.

“Yes, we will explain the
problems we have, but also how we are facing them. Above all we want to show
what our country has to offer, which is a lot,” Calderon said.

The campaign, cost and other
details were not disclosed, will be run out of Mexico‘s
tourism ministry.

The timing of the charm offensive
comes as Mexico is heading into local elections on 4
July in almost half of Mexican states and follows one of the worst spikes in
violence as drug killings continue to escalate.

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