A gripping, sobering account of how Mexican drug gangs have transformed into a criminal insurgency that threatens the nation's democracy and reaches across to the United States.
"Essential reading."-Steve Coll, The New Yorker
The world has watched stunned at the bloodshed in Mexico. Thirty thousand murdered since 2006; police chiefs shot within hours of taking office; mass graves comparable to those of civil wars; car bombs shattering storefronts; headless corpses heaped in town squares. And it is all because a few Americans are getting high. Or is it? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters and drug agents at the problem. But in secret, Washington is confused and divided about what to do. Who are these mysterious figures tearing Mexico apart? they wonder. What is El Narco?
El Narco draws the first definitive portrait of Mexico's drug cartels and how they have radically transformed. El Narco is not a gang; it is a movement and an industry drawing in hundreds of thousands from bullet-ridden barrios to marijuana-growing mountains. And it has created paramilitary death squads with tens of thousands of men-at-arms from Guatemala to the Texas border. Journalist Ioan Grillo has spent a decade in Mexico reporting on the drug wars from the front lines.
This piercing book joins testimonies from inside the cartels with firsthand dispatches and unsparing analysis. The devastation may be south of the Rio Grande, El Narco shows, but America is knee-deep in this conflict
Grillo, a seasoned reporter on the Mexican narcotics industry, offers a propulsive account of the blood-soaked machinery of "El Narco," the shadowy complex of drug cartels, street gangs, and paramilitary death squads that have littered Mexican streets with bodies and AK-47 shells. He tracks the violence that has surged in the vacuum left by the demise of the one-party government's byzantine but delicately balanced system of corruption, painting a grim portrait of the corrupt police, soldiers, and officials who, figuring they can't beat the crime, make a tidy fortune by joining it. Rife with tales of torture, decapitation, and mass kidnappings, the book levels an unflinching eye on the smugglers lauded as folk heroes in popular narcocorridas, or drug ballads, as the author talks to street thugs and assassins in their prison cells and luxury condos. Examining the trade's gunslinging culture, the motivations behind the continual ramping-up of violence, and some potential solutions to the problem, Grillo argues that America's hard-line rhetoric has failed and that if a game-changing alternative is not implemented, the Mexican state could also fail. Given the savage chaos Grillo shows us in the country's streets and barrios, his arguments are as perceptive as his high-octane reportage.