El Narco

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El Narco, The Bloody Rise of the Mexican Drug Cartels (ISBN 978-1-4088-2243-2, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013) caught my eye in Bookazine (The Avenue) and was selected as this week’s book for review.

Perhaps my interest in the drug scene comes from the fact that I missed it first time round. Whilst the undergraduate years did see some drug taking in the university cloisters, my group was too impecunious to buy any, let alone enough funds to become addicts.

Author Ioan Grillo delves into the history of the drug trade with the Mexican farmers suddenly finding that their crop was worth far more than they had expected, as the demand for the product grew in America.

Various crackdowns were arranged with the Mexican authorities in conjunction with the United States DEA. These were short term gains and long term disasters, as the Mexican side of the trade began to consolidate their efforts. It always reflected supply and demand.

With the author’s research he shows quite categorically that the American CIA was complicit in the cocaine trade, using the profits to support the contras! So the DEA and the CIA were really on opposite sides. With the DEA needing to show progress, they resorted to kidnapping a top drug lord, Matta Balasteros, as official channels would take too long in a country which had no extradition treaty.

Ioan Grillo discusses the Mexican media and is convinced that the majority are hard working honest journalists, reporting the truth, but with so much drug money floating around, there are the black sheep now driving new jeeps and living in fancy houses.

The Mexicans work hand in hand with the Colombian cartels, with this cozy arrangement allowing the Colombians to ship their narcotics through Mexico, leaving the Mexicans to work out how to get their shipments into North America.

Corruption has been the catalyst for the drug trade, and not many Mexicans in seats of power have done much to prevent it. In actual fact, to get into a seat of power required large financial inducements, and the source of the cash is the drug trade. A happy self-perpetuating circle.

With the Mexicans being the transporters, the Americans are the recipients and author Grillo does not shrink from pointing accusatory fingers at the American side, even to where the Mexicans were taught torture techniques from instruction manuals, written in Spanish, as official US government publications.

The escalation in violence is demonstrated, with one new chief of police lasting six hours before being gunned down. Long service leave of an unexpected style. Police officers have been known to block off complete suburbs so that the mafia can carry out a kidnapping!

Mexican presidents have tried to stop the escalation, but with corruption all around, the end results were nothing like they should have been.

B. 435 with several color plates makes this a cheap insight to the big business cartels operating in Mexico, and into the North American drug requirements. It will also show the reader just where Mexico is heading, and the future is not really all that rosy. A well researched book that I enjoyed.