The new billboard at I-10 and Loop 410 is among more than a dozen going up statewide to promote a new website, www.laredoissafe.com, to try to counter what Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas said is hurtful rhetoric.
“Calling Laredo a war zone is so far from the truth and it’s a slap in the face for the people,” Salinas said. “We no longer will stand for it.”
He said the renewed cartel violence tearing at its sister city of Nuevo Laredo across the Rio Grande, also has taken a toll on his city’s reputation.
Even after the drug war first erupted in Nuevo Laredo from 2003 to 2006, with several incidents of cross-border violence back then, Salinas said many unfamiliar with the area still believe the sister cities are one in the same.
The mayor said to counter that mistaken impression, the city of Laredo is working Lamar Outdoor Advertising that donated the billboards.
“The only thing we have to pay for is $12,000 for the materials,” Salinas said.
He said it is a small price to pay considering the negative impact “on our economy, on our tourism and trying to get professional people to come to Laredo.”
The mayor said if that were not the case, Laredo’s current boom would be even bigger.
He said the new website hopes to clarify any confusion by separating fact from fiction.
Despite the woes of its neighbor, the mayor said Laredo’s population continues to grow.
He also said many of the national retail chains in Laredo are considered top performers.
Salinas also said thanks to increased border security and coordination between local, state and federal law enforcement in Laredo, its crime rate per capita is among the lowest in the nation.
Joe Baeza, Laredo police spokesman, said the city has recorded nine murders so far this year, none drug related.
Baeza said of its 11 murders last year, only one was likely tied to drug violence.
As for carjackings or kidnappings, Baeza said there have been none in Laredo.
The Laredo mayor said his city wants to set the record straight.
He said, “Sometimes you have to just speak up and stand up for what’s right.”