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Business got so slow that his extortionists recently reduced his weekly payment to 2,500 pesos, about $205.

Every week, the wholesaler receives a call in which a distorted voice provides a bank-account number where money can be deposited but not withdrawn. He takes cash to indicated bank branches and makes deposits.

The wholesaler’s son-in-law was kidnapped early in 2009 — the family put $230,000 on a debit card and exchanged it for his safe return. His store also was burglarized previously.

Since he began paying for protection, all crime around him has ceased and police even have stopped harassing his customers for parking illegally in front of his business.

“At first, I used to say, ‘This will pass,’ but now I’m resigned that there’s no solution,” said the wholesaler, who has applied for U.S. residency to move to El Paso.

Mr. Murguia said extortion payments are so common that they’ve become known as “cobras del piso” or “floor charges” for doing business in Juarez — but there’s no measure of how much payoffs cost businesses citywide per year because few admit to paying them.