In this unprecedented and chilling monologue, a repentant Mexican hitman tells the unvarnished truth about the war on drugs on the American. El Sicario is the hidden face of America's war on drugs. He is a contract killer who functioned as a commandante in the Chihuahuan State police, who was trained in the US by the FBI, and who for twenty years kidnapped, tortured and murdered people for the drug industry at the behest of Mexican drug cartels. He is a hit man who came off the killing fields alive. He left the business and turned to Christ. And then he decided to tell the story of his life and work. Charles Bowden first encountered El Sicario while reporting for the book "Murder City". As trust between the two men developed, Bowden bore witness to the Sicario's unfolding confession, and decided to tell his story. The well-spoken man that emerges from the pages of El Sicario is one who has been groomed by poverty and driven by a refusal to be one more statistic in the failure of Mexico. He is not boastful, he claims no major standing in organized crime. But he can explain in detail not only torture and murder, but how power is distributed and used in the arrangement between the public Mexican state and law enforcement on the ground - where terror and slaughter are simply tools in implementing policy for both the police and the cartels. And he is not an outlaw or a rebel. He is the state. When he headed the state police anti-kidnapping squad in Juarez, he was also running a kidnapping ring in Juarez. When he was killing people for money in Juarez, he was sharpening his marksmanship at the Federal Police range. Now he lives in the United States as a fugitive. One cartel has a quarter million dollar contract on his head. Another cartel is trying to recruit him. He speaks as a free man and of his own free will - there are no charges against him. He is a lonely voice - no one with his background has ever come forward and talked. He is the future - there are thousands of men like him in Mexico and there will be more in other places. He is the truth no one wants to hear.
A participant in Mexico's orgy of drug violence bares his soul in this rambling confessional, expanded from a Harper's Magazine piece and film documentary. The anonymous author, a former hit man for the Juarez drug cartel who cops to hundreds of murders, details the vida loca of an archetypal narco-traficante: the meticulous procedures for kidnapping, torturing, murdering, dismembering, and burying victims; the drugs and hookers that make the routine bearable; the abject servility to cartel bosses whose word is law, even if it means executing close colleagues. The author's most startling claims concern the collusion of Mexico's security agencies and military with the cartels; he himself was one of many Chihuahuan state police officers who worked for the cartels with police officials' blessing. Unfortunately, El Sicario's narrative is a disjointed transcript of an interview with Bowden (Murder City), a veteran in writing about the Mexican drug trade, and research librarian Molloy. The text, padded out with the author's illegible stick-figure diagrams, is repetitive and wanders off into vague, hearsay conspiracy theories or effusions on his born-again Christianity. The book's eyewitness v rit style makes for a colorful story, but lacks shape and perspective.