Drug hitmen kidnap Mexican mayor near U.S. border

* Mayor likely targeted for crack down on corrupt cops

* Wealthy Monterrey near Texas seeing growing violence

By Robin Emmott

MONTERREY, Mexico, Aug 16 (BestGrowthStock) – Suspected drug hitmen
have abducted the mayor of a tourist town near Mexico’s
northern city of Monterrey in the latest surge in drug violence
threatening to undermine industry and scare off investors.

Gunmen with automatic weapons burst into Mayor Edelmiro
Cavazos’ home on Sunday in Santiago, a colonial-era town that
is a popular weekend destination for residents of nearby
Monterrey, police and officials said.

“He was led out of his house by armed men. He wasn’t
beaten, he wasn’t hand-cuffed or tied up,” Alejandro Garza,
attorney general of Nuevo Leon state, which includes Monterrey
and Santiago, told a news conference.

Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina said Cavazos was
probably targeted for his efforts to clean up Santiago’s
corrupt police force. The mayor’s family has not received any
ransom demands.

The abduction follows a spike in violence over the weekend
in northern Mexico, where rival gangs are battling for control
of lucrative drug smuggling routes into the United States.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been defending his
crackdown on drugs at home and abroad as the death toll in his
3-1/2-year campaign surpassed 28,000 people and cartels have
ratcheted up attacks against police and public officials.

“What is happening in reality is that we are imposing order
where there was none. So if you see dust, it is because we are
cleaning the house,” Calderon wrote in an op-ed in the French
newspaper Le Monde on Monday.

Yet there are few signs the cartels are ready to back
down.

Over the weekend, drug gangs set up over 40 roadblocks in
Monterrey, parking trucks, cars and even an ambulance across
roads in a bid to derail army anti-drug operations.

Assailants also threw grenades at offices of Televisa,
Mexico’s biggest broadcaster in Monterrey and in Tamaulipas
state to the east. No major injuries were reported.

Since the beginning of the year, Monterrey and nearby towns
like Santiago have been sucked into a bloody turf war between
the Gulf cartel and a spinoff group called Zetas.

The surge in violence in Monterrey, Mexico’s most affluent
city and home to some of the country’s biggest companies such
as global cement maker Cemex (CX.N: ) (CMXCPO.MX: ), is a major
worry as foreign companies question the safety of doing
business there. [nN08113364]

Calderon continues to enjoy support for his drive among the
majority of Mexicans and from the United States, which is
pouring over $1 billion into helping Mexico fight drugs.

But Calderon has come in for widespread criticism for his
government’s failure to end entrenched police corruption and
overhaul Mexico’s deeply flawed justice system.
(Editing by Missy Ryan)

Drug hitmen kidnap Mexican mayor near U.S. border