Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"El Narco" by Ioan Grillo

One of the few positive effects of the recession has been the decline in the use of cocaine in the United States. Since 2009 use of cocaine has dropped from 2.4 million users, to about 1.6 million. This shrinking market has had a profound effect upon the levels of violence along our southern border with Mexico, as well as in Mexico itself, where whole provinces have become victims of what has increasingly become a narco-state. As the cartels vie for control of this shrinking market, they make it abundantly clear that they run much of Mexico. There are whole police forces on the payroll of some cartels. Journalists are killed for reporting it. Last year, at a military funeral, the grieving family were gunned down, simply as a warning to others.

In this fascinating book by Ioan Grillo, the author examines the history of the drug trade, encompassing both the powerful political and criminal forces which allow this trade to continue unfettered. He also manages to delve into the relationship of the Columbian cartels of the 1980's and how they shifted the distribution part of the business to the Mexicans in an attempt to avoid the anti-drug efforts of the DEA. Eventually, the Mexicans took over the entire trade, from cultivation to distribution.

Almost daily, the newspaper holds more stories of the drug related violence, beheadings, rapes, shootings and assassinations that occur with increasing frequency, while the governments of 2 nations are seemingly rendered powerless by the cartels. We have almost become desensitized to the violence at this point. We even extoll these "anti-heroes" in movies, books, and songs. In Mexico there are groups, such as the Grupa Cartel, who make their livings singing about the exploits of the cartels. Some are even on the cartel payrolls. There is even a fledgling movie industry cranking out gangster films for the cartels, all extolling the the lifestyles of the El Narcos.

The author also explores the re-emergence of the PRI, the political party which ruled Mexico for over 70 years after the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th Century. Under the leadership of that party, drug distribution was somewhat controlled, albeit with graft and corruption. But, in retrospect, this system was preferable to the wholesale lawlessness which prevails today, spilling over the border, threatening to turn parts of our own nation into "narco-states" of their own.

This is a very carefully researched book written in an engaging style. The historical aspects of our relationship with Mexico are explored here in an effort to understand just how our “neighbor to the South” became such a thorn in our side. The answer lies not only with Mexico, but also in our own history and politics, as well as with our nation’s continued thirst for the contraband which fuels the fire.

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