Mexico to hire PR firms to scrub drug war image

Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:51pm GMT

By Mica Rosenberg and Adriana Barrera

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Felipe Calderon is launching a global public relations campaign to try to improve his country's image and neutralise 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, whose 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 July 4 in almost half of Mexican states and follows one of the worst spikes in violence as drug killings continue to escalate.   Continued...

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