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Mexico's other challenge: to burnish its brand

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For Mexicans, perception hardens into an unkind reality. Bad news keeps coming, much of it linked to cartels flexing their muscles in increasingly bold ways, as Sara Miller Llana, the Monitor's Mexico City bureau chief, reports from Veracruz (see page 26). There are beheadings. Grenade attacks on police.

The Calderón government maintains that much of the violence is of the criminal-on-crimimal kind. But crossfire killings, peripheral damage, fear, and suspicion appear to be spreading.

In a drive-by shooting in western Sinaloa State recently, one of those killed was Diego Rivas, whose "narcocorridos," songs that glorify drug traffickers, apparently slighted the wrong drug lord. And when a helicopter crashed in fog Nov. 11, killing a top government drug enforcer, some wondered whether it had been a narcoterrorist hit. (Charges of government opacity and corruption also generate their own buzz.)

How does that kind of mounting cultural dysfunction hit people's perceptions of a country?

One metric, for what it's worth: FutureBrand, a global consultancy, just released its latest Country Brand Index. It surveys a range of data (including statistics on violence and unrest), adds insights gleaned from interviews with influential branding sources, and cranks out a list.

At No. 1 overall: America's northern neighbor and trade partner, Canada. (The United States was No. 6.) Mexico barely made the Top 50, landing at No. 47 of 113 countries. Surprisingly, it didn't even crack the Top 25 in the heritage and culture category (where Peru was ranked No. 4). It scored 23rd on tourism, behind Chile. Its beaches carried the flag – but only up to No. 14.

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