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Las organizaciones criminales destruyen la diversidad económica

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En 2008 estalló una guerra por el control territorial entre los carteles narcos de Tijuana y Sinaloa que dejó un rastro de cadáveres de gente torturada y asesinada en las inmediaciones de la frontera entre México y Estados Unidos. En Tijuana, a medida que aumentaron los secuestros y que los homicidios superaron la cifra de 800, fueron cerrando las tiendas de recuerdos y de ropa, y los restaurantes y bares se fueron quedando vacíos. El centro de la ciudad, que había sido un destino preferido de turistas estadounidenses para visitas breves y por sus clubes nocturnos, se convirtió en un pueblo fantasma.

Pero ocurrió algo extraño en la economía general de esa ciudad de poco más de 1,3 millones de habitantes. Aunque la violencia arrasó con el turismo y el comercio al detal, apenas si afectó al sector manufacturero. Las empresas multilaterales fabricantes de aparatos electrónicos y productos textiles comenzaron a tomar mayores precauciones, compraron más vehículos blindados y contrataron más guardaespaldas. Pero se quedaron en su sitio y siguieron dando empleo a grandes cantidades de personas. Para esas empresas reforzar la seguridad resultaba más económico que mudarse a otro país y perder la ventaja comparativa que ofrecía la cercanía con Estados Unidos.

Pero el cambio que experimentó el ecosistema económico fue considerable. Como señala Viridiana Ríos, oradora de orden en un seminario organizado recientemente por el BID y autora de un trabajo sobre la violencia y la diversidad económica, uno de los mayores efectos de la violencia es la reducción de la complejidad económica. Las economías locales no siempre se contraen al verse afectadas por la actividad criminal. Simplemente se van haciendo cada vez menos diversas, a medida que las actividades más resistentes y adaptables mantienen su curso e incluso llegan a prosperar, mientras que otras abandonan o son aplastadas. De hecho, según este análisis, un incremento de 9,8% del número de organizaciones criminales en una ciudad o región basta para eliminar a todo un sector de la economía, ya sea el turismo, el comercio al detal o alguno otro. Un aumento de 5,5% de la violencia de pandillas o un incremento de más de 22,5% del índice de homicidios produce un efecto similar.

En esta lucha, la supervivencia de los diversos sectores económicos viene dada por su naturaleza. Por ejemplo, en México gran parte de la actividad de exploración petrolera y de gas natural tiene lugar en el estado costero de Tamaulipas, que durante años se ha visto afectado por asesinatos, secuestros y extorsión por parte de los Zetas y el Cartel del Golfo. No obstante, las empresas petroleras están acostumbradas a operar en zonas altamente conflictivas. Incorporan un mayor elemento de seguridad en sus costos. De hecho, los mayores efectos sobre las operaciones comerciales de esas empresas son causados no por la actividad criminal, sino por los precios internacionales de sus productos. Cabe decir lo mismo de la minería que, como ramo de actividad, se ha acostumbrado a operar en algunos de los lugares más inseguros del mundo. Y a menudo lo mismo vale para el sector manufacturero. Desde el período de 2009-2010, cuando Ciudad Juárez fue la ciudad más violenta del mundo, el sector manufacturero local ha creado 23.000 puestos de trabajo; un incremento de 16%. Claro que la violencia abre oportunidades para el ramo de los servicios privados de seguridad y prevención. Entre 1996 y 2011, el número de empresas privadas de seguridad casi se duplicó en México al llegar a 10.000, empleando aproximadamente a 500.000 personas.

Mientras tanto, otros tipos de empresas pueden desaparecer fácilmente en medio de la actividad criminal. Los comercios al detal y las empresas turísticas son ejemplos característicos de ello. Pero las evidencias también sugieren, aunque esto no se ha demostrado, que las empresas más pequeñas, incapaces de costear servicios privados de seguridad, también pueden verse obligadas a abandonar un mercado a causa de la violencia, al igual que las empresas recién creadas, cuando el homicidio o secuestro de un gerente resulta particularmente costoso en términos de pérdida de experiencia. Las empresas informales, por temor a alertar a las autoridades sobre su existencia, también pueden cerrar sus puertas si se ven amenazadas por el crimen.

¿Cómo debemos abordar los costos de la actividad criminal? Muchos estudios se han concentrado en los efectos de la violencia en la reducción de la actividad económica. Pero quizá convenga ocuparnos por igual de sus efectos sobre la naturaleza de esa actividad. Una economía dominada por la minería, la agricultura o el petróleo es menos compleja que una en la que esos sectores convivan con las finanzas, la tecnología, el comercio al detal, el turismo y otros ramos de actividad. Y la complejidad es beneficiosa para las economías. Las economías menos diversas también son menos innovadoras. Producen una menor fertilización de capacidades y experiencia del tipo que conduce a nuevos productos y formas de hacer negocios.

En Tijuana, el turismo médico, que ofrece a los ciudadanos estadounidenses operaciones mucho más económicas al otro lado de la frontera, se ha convertido en un componente importante de la economía local. Esta idea innovadora, producto de combinar las capacidades turística, tecnológica y médica de la ciudad, perdería el rumbo si el crimen acabara totalmente con el turismo. Se perderían millones de dólares en inversiones. Ésta es una de las incontables razones para mantener a raya a las organizaciones criminales. Una ciudad más pacífica es un lugar más diverso, creativo e innovador, y sus perspectivas económicas son aún más alentadoras.

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