June 18 - Expatriate community in a small Mexican lakeside town thrives despite wave of increasing violence stemming from Mexico's drug war. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
While a violent war on drugs rages in Mexico, in this expat retirement community there are few signs of fear. The town Ajijic, with a population of approximately 15,000, is home to an estimated 3-5,000 mainly retired expatriates - most of them Americans and Canadians. Many gather at the Lake Chapala Society to talk about books, and movies or to play board games. Howard Feldstein is the head of the society. (SOUNDBITE)(English HOWARD FELDSTEIN, PRESIDENT OF THE LAKE CHAPALA SOCIETY, SAYING: "Generally, we all feel safe here. The recent experience here has shaken the community in many ways. Primarily, I think, the Mexican community, because they were the real targets of that tragedy. It's caused all of us some concern, but it's no more dangerous here than it is in any city in the United States or Canada." . A recent wave of violence has shaken the area. In November, a 69-year old retired American, Stephen Christopher Kahr, was murdered in his home in what authorities say was a botched robbery attempt. In May, a foreign national was briefly kidnapped and released by suspected drug cartel members. Betty Robinson, originally from Sarasota, says the expats have less to fear than the locals. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BETTY ROBINSON, AJIJIC RESIDENT, SAYING: "They feel as if the Mexican population is being threatened and not the gringos. From what I see I think that that is true, and they have a right to be a little afraid. But I see it getting better." In May many of the local residents took to the streets to call for peace. Drug violence has killed about 55,000 people since President Felipe Calderon launched a war on drugs when he came to office five years ago. Deborah Lutterbeck, Reuters