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In just four years, Monterrey, a manufacturing city of 4 million people 140 miles from the Texan border, has gone from being a model for developing economies to a symbol of Mexico's drug war chaos, sucked down into a dark spiral of gangland killings, violent crime and growing lawlessness.
Already drug killings have spread to Mexico's second city Guadalajara and while Mexico City has so far escaped serious drug violence, the capital does have a large illegal narcotics market. If the cartels were to declare war on its streets, Monterrey's experience shows that Mexico's long-neglected police and judiciary are not equipped to handle it.
"If we can't deal with the problem in Monterrey, with all the resources and the people we have here, then that is a serious concern for the rest of Mexico," said Javier Astaburuaga, chief financial officer at top Latin American drinks maker FEMSA, which helped to spark the city's industrialization in the early 1900s.
But the day-to-day reality is a violence that is out of control. Just over 600 people have died in drug war killings in and around Monterrey so far this year, a sharp escalation from the 620 drug war murders in all of 2010.
The dead include local mayors and an undetermined number of innocent civilians, including a housewife caught in cross-fire while driving through the city, a just-married systems engineer shot dead by soldiers on his way to work and a young design student shot by a gunman in the middle of the afternoon on one of Monterrey's busiest shopping streets.
More than a thousand people have disappeared across Nuevo Leon state, of which Monterrey is the capital, since 2007, according to the U.N.-backed human rights group CADHAC, which says they were forcibly recruited by the Gulf and Zetas gangs.
Human Rights Watch has documented more than a dozen forced disappearances over the same period that it says were carried out by soldiers, marines and police working for the cartels.
They've dumped severed heads outside kindergartens and killed traffic police as they helped children cross the road. In a matter of minutes, they can shut down large parts of the city by hijacking vehicles at gunpoint to block highways with trucks and buses to allow hitmen to escape the army. Police, once considered Mexico's best, have been infiltrated by both gangs.
On two consecutive days in April, a record 30 people were killed in shootouts, mainly hitmen and police, but also a student who was run down by a fatally wounded police officer trying to escape gunmen.
Almost 40,000 people have died across the country since late 2006, and in Monterrey, the violence has escalated to a level that questions the government's ability to maintain order and ensure the viability of a region that is at the heart of Mexico's ambitions to become a leading world economy.
Only a matter of time before the fourth front of war is opened for the US on a major scale.
Victims' families interviewed by CADHAC reported two cases of mass kidnappings of 40 to 50 young Mexicans during raids on working class districts in Monterrey in July 2010 and a string of individual cases over the past four years, often of men aged between 18 and 20 years old
Twelve of Nuevo Leon's rural towns are without any local police as cops have quit after brutal drug gang attacks.
U.S. officials admit privately that Monterrey's best hope is to contain the violence and get it off the front pages.
And there is still a lot of denial.
"Is there a problem? Yes there is, but it is a problem between the cartels, not against society," said Mayor Fernandez in his office, adorned with paintings, in San Pedro.
It's just a matter of time before cartels start going crazy like in Mexico in the US... the corruption of cops in the US is almost as bad as Mexico nowadays.