Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev urged Mexicans during a visit to this border city to learn the lessons that come from "violent changes" and work toward strengthening national unity.
Gorbachev took part in a conference Monday in Ciudad
Juárez, considered Mexico's murder capital and the most dangerous city in the
world, that was attended by politicians and business leaders involved in an
effort to attract investment to the city.
"You are going to triumph," Gorbachev said in
his address to about 1,000 people attending the "Juárez Competitiva"
conference, which started last Thursday and runs until the end of the month.
"Violent changes help to learn and educate because
if there is change and you do not learn, it is not consolidated so it can be
lasting," the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner said.
The violence of the past four years in Ciudad Juárez,
where about 9,000 people have been murdered, is worrisome "because it
reflects the state of the world," Gorbachev said.
"We are responsible for what is happening," the
former Soviet leader said.
Mexicans should act independently and work to promote a
sense of national unity, he said.
"During the unification of Germany, we had to appeal
to unity, for the two Germanies to be willing to accept unity. That's the only
way," Gorbachev said.
The conference, which includes cultural events, is being
held in an effort to restore Ciudad Juárez's tarnished image.
The series of events will feature a number of prominent
speakers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mexican astronaut
Rodolfo Neri Vela.
Ciudad Juárez, located across the Rio Grande from El
Paso, Texas, first gained notoriety in the early 1990s, when young women began
to disappear in the area.
More than 500 women have been killed in Ciudad Juárez
since 1993, according to the National Human Rights Commission, with the
majority of the cases going unsolved.
In most of the slayings, the victims were young women
from poor families who moved to the border city from all over Mexico to work in
the many assembly plants, known as "maquiladoras," built there to
take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Investigators have not determined who is behind the
killings, although there has been speculation that serial killers, organized
crime, people traffickers, drug smugglers and child pornographers, among
others, may be involved.
Ciudad Juárez has been plagued by a wave of drug-related
violence in recent years blamed on a war for control of smuggling routes into
the United States being waged by the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels with backing
from hitmen from local street gangs.