Crime, drug news shouldn't overshadow Latin America's growing economy

Guest blogger James Bosworth says that despite the media's focus on violence in Latin America – which certainly can't be ignored – the region offers friendly faces and strong investments.

Monday's New York Times article on Mexico's economy, focusing on the increase in manufacturing in the same border towns that are centers of gravity for violent crime, is worth reading just to see the companies making the investment in those towns.

For people who follow Mexico news closely, the fact that there is a strong economy and significant manufacturing sector won't be surprising, but it's good to see the story on the front page of a major US newspaper where many readers usually read about the conflict.

I was thinking about similar issues while I was walking around San Salvador a few months ago. Every statistical measurement says it's one of the world's most dangerous cities and reading the news out of El Salvador makes it sound rather frightening. However, there is also a significant amount of economic activity going on there and there are large parts of the city where you can walk or drive around relatively safely as long as you exercise some common sense.

Violence and organized crime certainly make news and deserve to be covered by the media. It's an epidemic in Latin America that is killing hundreds of people each month. You can't ignore that. At the same time, it's not the only thing going on in Mexico and Central America. The idea that there can be violence and economic activity in the same city or country shouldn't be seen as some sort of strange paradox. Economies certainly do better where there is security and areas that are overrun by criminals chase investment away, but many cities have both insecurity and a working economy coexisting.

Even considering the serious violence that is occurring, you can travel through most countries in Latin America and find friendly faces and good places to eat and strong investments. I realize I cover organized crime and violence often on my blog, but it's good to remind readers that Latin America is also a great place to be.

(As an addition to that NYT story, I also want to point to the FT special report from late June about investing in Mexico.)

--- James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant based in Managua, Nicaragua, who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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