At this point, bank robberies and auto theft seem minor in a city where children can walk out the door any given day and see a bleeding body outside their homes. But it is the apparent policy the Mexican government, quite different from prior administrations, is intent on following for the near future.

"The White House thought the violence and corruption was a Mexican problem that wouldn't affect the United States," Chabat said. "And Mexico thought the consumption of drugs was a U.S. problem...Time has proven that both perceptions are erroneous, and whether we like it or not, the phenomenon of drug trafficking must be confronted by both governments. If we don't, the chaos will overpower both nations."

It's certainly overpowering Juárez, rapidly becoming a dilapidated, lawless city where only those who don't have other options stay. Many of the poor who came in droves during the maquiladora boom are returning to the southern states where they came from. The Juárez business group called Coparmex estimates about 40 of the 300 or so factories have shut down in the past two years, costing thousands of jobs.

The Juárez Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, estimates 10,000 businesses have been forced to close. Many owners can't pay or refuse to pay the bribes that gangs demand for protection. Dozens of businessmen have been kidnapped for ransom and countless businesses have been torched, leaving central shopping centers empty and boarded up. The once-popular discotheque Broncos and Cowgirls was burned down a few months ago by extortionists, and the surrounding shopping mall in Plaza las Americas has few cars in its parking lots.

In the Plaza de las Armas, the once-bustling plaza that thrived selling blankets and silver to American tourists, has disappeared. Although locals still go there to sell hot dogs or get their shoes shined for a semblance of normalcy, it empties out in the afternoon after people return from work.

"There are less people in the plazas, in all public areas, hotels, dance halls, shops. A lot of people are imprisoned in their homes," said the Reverend Carlos Reza, 32, a priest in the city's main cathedral. Reza tells his flock in sermons that what is happening in Juárez is similar to the persecutions of early Christians and Israelites, meaning this too shall pass.

High unemployment and lack of education among those 18 to 25 years of age—the age group that comprises around 40 percent of the population in Juárez—has clearly fed criminal activity and crimes of opportunity, but so have low wages of about $5 a day, a rate that has gone up only about $1 since NAFTA went into effect, fueling an underground drug economy that's attractive to the young and poor with no other options to make a living.

"We have watched with mounting distress as the narcos become more powerful. They are lawless. They are terrorists. They control the Mexican side of the border," said Alejandro Junco, owner of Grupo Reforma, the largest newspaper company in Latin America, speaking at World Affairs Council luncheon in San Antonio on March 25.

"The rule of law in our democracy hangs by a thread. Those who are not corrupted cannot contain the lawlessness.

"The reason so many young men join the bloodstained hands is they would rather live one week like a king than endure a life of misery for 70 years. Our sad reality is that if you are born poor, and you don't leave the country, poverty is your destiny if you don't become a hit man."

Junco, 61, employs some 4,000 Mexican reporters and most wear bulletproof vests. Like other Mexican newspapers, Junco's dailies of Reforma, El Nortein Monterrey and Mural in Guadalajara have forgone bylines in drug stories.

Junco himself has been the target of death threats and, like prominent figures who speak out, he says he has lost faith in the Mexican government. He spends much of his time in Austin.

Mexico's National Human Rights Commission reports 60 deaths and 11 disappearances of journalists in the country since 2000. But this year, six journalists were killed and five kidnapped reporters are still missing.

The daily violence that Juárez endured almost unnoticed for nearly two years gained international attention when three people linked to the U.S. consulate, two of them Americans, were gunned down March 13, about 2:30 p.m. in what appeared to be two different coordinated attacks.

Lesley Ann Enriquez, a pregnant employee of the U.S. consulate, was leaving a children's consulate party with her husband, Arthur Redelfs, a corrections officer with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, and their 3-month-old daughter when their white Toyota was intercepted a few meters from the Santa Fe Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting to El Paso and the site of a military camp.

Almost at the same time, after leaving the same party, Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniseros, the 37-year-old husband of another U.S. consulate worker, was driving in his SUV with his children, ages 2, 4 and 7, when gunmen opened fire and killed him instantly. Salcido was a production manager of the Dallas-based technology and outsourcing company Affiliated Computer Services Inc.

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4 comments
Peter Breitholtz
Peter Breitholtz

juarez sounds like a scary place and i can't imagine how alive the people living there must feel; not the worst thing in the world; as for the policy, i believe it's a measure lawmakers decided would help cut down on crime and a strained budget in the state of arizona; correct me if i'm wrong; i agree this country lacks a coherent immigration policy and i believe it is simply becoming more coherent under the Obama administration, not that he supports the Arizona policy, publicly, but seriously, there are plenty of neighborhoods in this country that are just as frightening probably to live in than juarez; or at least way more frightening than they should be considering they exist on American soil; i'm beginning to believe the only policy that will work is tough policy, for now; until two things happen: 1. cartels are inspired to stop selling cocaine in the united states (mexicans consume one fifth of the cocaine americans do) and 2. start creating opportunities in cities deep within mexico that attract mexicans at the border and foreigners for that matter i believe it's time for the world to intervene; unfortunately, i don't believe any other country cares that americans continue to buy mexican drugs; i understand that americans are beginning to consume less cocaine and due to the strength of the euro, coke is being trafficked to europe where cocaine abuse is reportedly increasing; the cocaine is being moved through countries like guinea bisseau; maybe europe might start caring and a coalition could be formed to militarily overthrown el chapo; it's delicate though because i would imagine the cartel shares; although, a cartel member told me they don't; the world's big problem is lack of opportunity and a media that rubs wealth in our faces

Mark
Mark

You site the incredible violence in Northern Mexico and the power and reach of drug lords in that area, then question why we want to stop people who want to leave from that country to ours illegally? As someone who moved here from a relatively illegal immigrant free part of the country the horrible differences I see living here already are stark and undeniable.

Pablo
Pablo

We should prosecute criminals.

There is a problem with a Society that allows Police and Firefighters write laws and comment on their passage.

If these two groups want to write the Laws they enforce, go to an outright commie country and live there, is what I recommend to them.

The other day I heard a State Lawmaker comment that the singer that came to town should but out and mind her business in her country, and stop trying to impose her beliefs on this one.

The monkey never heard of Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America?

America is quickly becoming a village of idiots.

And Joe Arpaio is their king.

*

Sdsaulka
Sdsaulka

Hey. Pablo. Clue in. ALL laws EVER made at ANY time or ANY place are the product of the cohort that wants them. Period. You have the temerity to disagree? The essence of the existential is its banality - think it through. Good day, sir.

 
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