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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 suares 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 in the last decade 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 suads 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


10 thoughts on “El Narco

  1. says:

    Is this the most beautifully crafted writing about Mexico's drug war? no For that it would be better to seek out Charles Bowden or John Gibler It is however the most complete and well synthesized history of the Mexican drug trade available in the English language And I will say this distinction is all about sources Ioan Grillo has clearly read all of the most important works of the fearless Mexican journalists who cover the Mexican drug trade while also undertaking a substantial amount of fieldwork in drug producing and trafficking regions of Mexico Compared to the other major work released recently The Cartel there is a night and day sort of contrast when it comes to sources Grillo's are impeccable and include working closely some of the bravest journalists on earth while Longmire's is invested in policy documents and accounts from North of the border Most impressive though is that Grillo manages to make sense of the bloodshed than just about anyone I've come across which is no small feat After all one of the major themes running through the literature of the drug war is the utter confusion of the observer Grillo manages to make economic sense of the trade politics and violence than most accounts More impressive is that he was able to tie a lot of this information together before Anabel Hernandez's landmark work Los senores del narco was released Perhaps the factor of being an outsider from both the American and Mexican sides of the trade allows Grillo a better perspective on the mess


  2. says:

    This encompasses an excellent historical review of narco crime in Mexico – how it evolved and became and viciousMexico has been used as a trampoline author’s expression for passage of drugs from Columbia to the US With the suppression of the cartels or drug lords in Columbia namely Pablo Escobar the power base shifted to Mexico which also produces marijuana and other stronger narcotics cocaine and heroin There are different cartels that compete with each other to transport and funnel drugs to the US There are chiefly the Sinaloa Cartel in Western Mexico and the Zetas on the Gulf side They war savagely with each other It is to the point where civil authority has broken down in many cities like Ciudad Juarez Tijuana and Culiacan Local police will sometimes unite with the narco gangs to gun down Mexican federal troops sent in to attempt to establish law and order Some well trained Mexican troops have left their posts to join the narco gangs to provide para military training So there are now areas where a parallel government uses terror to enforce its power Sometimes they will commit atrocities in the territory of another cartel to shift the focus of government forces to their opponents’ area The government is often in a uandary because when it sends in federal troops who are unfamiliar with the area and are facing guerilla like warfare they risk committing atrocities themselves But if they don’t respond local residents become and under the intimidating control of the cartelsAnd the cartels are expanding their entrepreneurship to kidnappings control of migrant flow to the US and business shakedowns of even large corporations There are Mexicans dealing drugs in the US The cartels are establishing liaisons with Central America and of course ColumbiaThe author does well to point out that not all of Mexico is a free fire zone Mexico City has a crime rate comparable to some large US cities But over the years the government and its varied police forces and the author points to this also as a problem which is the lack of unity in Mexican police forces have lost credibility The “War on Drugs” has become and violent has caused civil breakdown in many border cities – and there is little light at the end of the tunnel The US is rightly concerned about all this – could its’ southern neighbors’ breakdown lead to a civil war between various cartel regions? Towards the end of the book the author suggests that legalization may provide an answer Legalization would provide extra tax dollars and stop spending on this constant war But this is not the focal point of the bookWe are given a close up and multi layered view of a society being increasingly ruled by drug warlords It’s uite a frightening worldPage 186 my book Humaya Gardens in Culiacan has hundreds of other narco tombs in its sun beaten soil It is one of the most bizarre cemeteries in the world Mausoleums are built of Italian marble and decorated with precious stones and some even have air conditioning Many cost above 100000 to build – than most Culiacan homes Inside are surreal biblical paintings next to photos of the deceased normally in cowboy hats and often clasping guns In some photos they pose in fields of marijuana; in others tombs small concrete planes indicate the buried Mafioso was a pilot An alarming number are under twenty five – and have died in recent years 2009 2010 2011


  3. says:

    click here to read a really long review; read on through for the short oneEl Narco is truly one of the best books of nonfiction I've read this year I would definitely recommend this to anyone who's even remotely interested in the topic I noticed that while looking at reviews I found one where someone calls this book conspiratorial left wing and Anti American Don't believe it The book is frightening in its implications because it's all too real but the facts are well presented and thoroughly researched Grillo's own insights and personal contributions even convey some humor to break up what is an incredibly serious situations and he's been covering Mexico and other parts of Latin America for years and is therefore most credible Great bookIoan Grillo journalist and author of El Narco has based his book not only on comprehensive and impeccable research but on firsthand accounts his own observations and often hair raising interviews The roadmap for understanding this book is completely laid out in the first chapter as Grillo examines a the transformation of groups responsible for drug smuggling who have in the last decade or so become militarized into paramilitary death suads responsible for tens of thousands of deaths as well as the effects on ordinary people in Mexico; b the rise of these groups as a dangerous criminal insurgency one that threatens to become a civil war along the USMexico border; c the combined effects of the lack of success of the US war on drugs and Mexico's own political and economic issues in creating this insurgency; and d possible solutions based on what Grillo calls a drastic rethinking of strategies that should not depend on US military involvementBut before launching into the meat of the book Grillo first examines the concept of El Narco He notes that in Mexico El Narco is the collective term used for traffickers but in reality the term also designates an entire culture in its own right spawning its own music co opting religious icons and religions its own clothing styles etc all based on the drug trafficker as local hero It is an entire movement based in the drug underworld and as Grillo notes the threat of El Narco and figuring out possible solutions is best understood by following its developmentAs the book proceeds it follows the above listed guideline to provide an incredible look at how the traffic in drugs in Mexico went from a few people who dominated the poppyopiumnarcotics market to a major insurgency and an all out war which threatens to explode into unprecedented violence and a very real threat


  4. says:

    A concise and thoughtful book that provides an excellent background into the violence that has gripped the border as the drug wars have escalated in the recent years


  5. says:

    The Death TradeThe dead can't cry out for justice It's the duty of the living to do so for them Mexico's drug cartels After Islamic terrorists they're uite possibly the most powerful and dangerous criminals on the planet Hundreds of millions of dollars have allowed them to buy the firepower necessary to make utter mincemeat of the civilian law enforcement which tries to go after them And then there's human rights violations they commit which have sealed them a place in the public consciousness Unspeakable torture kidnapping and beheading We know their depravity We understand they have the potential to destabilize the Mexican state if they're not controlled or liuidated soon enough But where did they come from? How did they replace the destroyed Columbian cartels as the kings of the Drug trade? Ioan Grillo a journalist who has covered Mexico tells all in this excellent book which should be reuired reading for those interested in geopolitics and the nature of modern crime The author takes us through the history of the Mexican drug trade From the days when opium was grown in the Sierra Madre to the beginning of the modern cartels facilitated by the outrageous corruption of the PRI dictatorship the roots of the problem are explored in great detail Then we explore the present day cost the cartels visit on Mexican society From the long suffering but defiant journalists who cover the activities of the Cartels to victims of killings conducted by cartels a fascinating but sobering conflict is given clarity For those interested in how the most profitable criminal trade works and the lives it affects I recommend this book


  6. says:

    More than Society PermitsWhenever I review books about the Drug War the carnage in Mexico few seem to care Is it the ostrich with its head in the sand syndrome or is it the “I got my blow my weed Now get off my back” mentality? Perhaps it’s my pedantic tone I try not to rail but when one is familiar with the torture brutality senseless beheadings and acid baths all for control of prohibited drug sales then one loses one’s propriety We permit the Drug War useless billions spent every year yet we don’t want to hear about it Seal it away It happens down there or in the ghettosIf you are not one of these people then read El Narco It is a comprehensive account of what is transpiring in the Western Hemisphere under our very noses right now It’s not a pretty story but a necessary read for anyone who cares


  7. says:

    I have a thing for non fiction history books with a fair amount of violenceI liked this book The beginning and end of the book lack a degree of pacing but I thought the amount of research was impressive This portion of our recent history is under reported or sound bite fodder on the evening news but there is a good amount of depth to this book The author takes the time to break down different factions of the narco gangs as well as a good historical perspective of each I think it is good reporting although parts of book may be too gruesome for some


  8. says:

    Very informative book about the Mexican drug war Written by a journalist it has the feel of an extremely long but interesting magazine article on the history and evolution of the Drug Trade in the Americas Would not describe as a book that couldn't be put down as the narrative does not include characters you followget attached to The book sets up nicely for sporadic reading though as each chapter has a uniue angle that does not reuire you to have readretain the prior chapter Like I said at the start it feels like an anthology of in depth reporting


  9. says:

    I picked this book because it was the most lauded of the recent crop of English language books about the Mexican Cartels I was not disappointed I have been following this issue for some time now through both newspaper investigations and systematic assessments like those at InsightCrime and Small Wars Journal But while the gruesomeness and the severity of the Mexican DTO problem is nothing new to me Ioan Grillo highlighted several misconceptions that I had gathered from other usually reliable sources the most notable being the fact that the current escalation of cartel violence actually predates Calderon's presidency Grillo's extensive amount of time in country is on display as he deftly shifts his focus from one aspect of this multi faceted problem to another moving from the macro to the micro and back again Never so in the weeds as to become tiresome or redundant but never so cursory as to leave out important facts and trends Grillo does an excellent job of putting a modern menace within a political social and economic context that stretches back for decades Better yet Grillo demonstrates a familiarity with sophisticated analyses in both English and Spanish that augment his first hand observations and provide the reader with a opportunity to learn from other authors The result is a book that can offer something for virtually everyone from the completely uninitiated to the longtime analystIt addresses one of the most difficult and dangerous problems of our time and is a must read due to its accessibility and intelligence


  10. says:

    I picked up this book because I wanted to understand better the drug trafficking situation in Mexico My knowledge about the subject was really scarce and mostly based on newspaper articles The only other book I read about the subject was Arturo Pérez Reverte’s “La Reina del Sur” I think “El Narco” was a great reading choice as Grillo provides us with a very detailed analysis of this phenomenon I was a bit biased about the fact that he is not Mexican thinking that he may not be able to understand the culture but the parts I enjoyed the most were about “El Narco” in the popular culture and the religious beliefs of cartel members One of the most popular form of music is the narco corrido that is used to glorify the feats of cartels They have an industry of their own and can be also heard in the US not only Latin America When it comes to religious beliefs my opinion is that all the Latin American countries have customised their own version of catholicism Mexicans have Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte They are not recognised by the church but have their own cults and altars all over the countryGrillo touches on different institutions of Mexico and how they are connected with drug trafficking police government press civilians Drug trafficking and cartels are affecting all the society There are many civilian victims and there is a lot of corruption I never believed that what I saw in movies shootings in plain sight is the reality of so many people that try to move on with their normal livesA funny fact is that Mexican drug trafficking was started by Chinese immigrants and their descendants Their field of work was opium production The list of early arrested drug traffickers includes names like Patricio Hong and Felipe WongI think the book is a really good source of information It doesn’t try to provide us with a solution as drug trafficking is not a “known disease” with a clear treatment However the conclusion is that the solutions tried until now are not working In order to come up with a working it is important to understand the country’s history the current state of the society and narco trafficking as a business It is very easy to be politically correct when you haven’t even visited the country but for many of the people involved the Mexican state failed to provide an alternative