Mexico: How Juarez Became the World’s Deadliest City

Pubdate: Thu, 1 Jul 2010
Source: Boston Review (MA)
Copyright: 2010 Boston Review
Author: Sarah Hill

The War for Drugs


In April 2007 Ciudad Juarez-the sprawling Mexican border city girding
El Paso, Texas-won a Foreign Direct Investment magazine award for
“North American large cities of the future.” With an automotive
workforce rivaling Detroit’s and hundreds of export-processing
plants, businesses in Juarez employed 250,000 factory workers, and
were responsible for nearly one-fifth of the value of U.S.-Mexican
trade. The trans-border region of 2.4 million people had one of the
hemisphere’s highest growth rates.

Just three years later, as many as 125,000 factory jobs and 400,000
residents have vanished. More than ten thousand small businesses have
closed, and vast stretches of residential and commercial areas are
abandoned. It is no surprise that the Great Recession temporarily
shuttered factories and forced layoffs in a city intimately tied to
American consumers. Mexico’s economy contracted by 5.6 percent in
2009, far worse than the United States’s “negative growth” of about 2 percent.

But Juarez has suffered from much more than recession. Its murder
rate now makes it the deadliest city in the world, including cities
in countries at war with foreign enemies. On average, there are more
than seven homicides each day, many in broad daylight. Some 10,000
combat-ready federal forces are now stationed in Juarez; their
armored vehicles roll up and down the same arteries as semis tightly
packed with HDTVs bound for the United States. Factory managers wake
up in El Paso-one of the safest U.S. cities-and go to work in the
plants of a city bathed in blood.