Femsa CEO Says Monterrey Reacting to Solve Problem of Drug Gang Violence

Mexican authorities and civil organizations in the northern city of Monterrey are taking the right steps to combat rising violence, said Jose Antonio Fernandez, chief executive of Fomento Economico Mexicano SAB.

Leaders were caught off guard by the magnitude of the drug- related violence in Monterrey and didn’t move quickly enough to quell it, Fernandez said during a speech in the city last night.

“Now that we’ve realized that the problem is much more serious that what we thought, we’re reacting,” Fernandez said. “Things are beginning to happen to resolve this.”

Almost 30,000 people have been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and cracked down on organized crime by sending soldiers to cities where violence has flared.

Criminals have stepped up attacks in the Monterrey area this month with the use of grenades, injuring a dozen people in the downtown plaza of a suburb and leaving four officers hurt at a state police headquarters.

Fernandez called on people to unite to fend off the crime wave. Femsa, as the holding company for Latin America’s largest Coca-Cola bottler and Mexico’s largest convenience-store chain is known, is funding organizations that are helping fight crime, he said, without naming them.

“Everybody participates in society, not just the government. It’s unjust for someone to say, ‘This is President Calderon’s war.’ That’s ridiculous,” he said. “This is everyone’s war to have a more just and clean society.”

Monterrey isn’t as violent as the media portrays, Fernandez said. The city’s crime rate is still better than several cities in Latin America and even the U.S., he said, without naming them. Monterrey was renowned for being safe and that has given a sense that the violence is worse, he said.

“In relative terms, we’re in very bad shape from where we were,” Fernandez said. “Monterrey was a city practically without crime.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Black in Monterrey at tblack@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Joshua Goodman at jgoodman19@bloomberg.net.

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