Juárez has a growing problem with narcomenudeo, the American-style street-corner drug sales, and wars between narcomenudeo gangs have been a driving factor behind the city's 1,400 murders this year. Streetside drug vendors earn about 200 pesos (some 15 dollars, depending on the exchange rate) for eight-hour shifts. Hitmen on retainer earn 3,000 to 5,000 pesos a week, while expert shooters who are in charge of high-level targets earn 20,000 per murder. All of this compares to about 600 pesos a week for the major employment alternative: the maquiladoras.
Juárez accounts for some 1.4 percent of Mexico's population, but 30 percent of its murders this year (which is all the more staggering when you consider that many other parts of the country have witnessed surges in executions). Like Tijuana, Juárez has a potent mix of street gangs warring for turf on one hand, and powerful cartels murdering their enemies and subverting the state on the other. The social fabric of the poor neighborhoods organically unravels (ungovernability from the bottom up), and the cartels supplant the state's authority (ungovernability from the top down). As unsafe as Mexico has become, if drug use continues to rise among the Mexican youth, Juárez shows how much worse it could get.