Rigorous, disturbing narrative of how drug cartels infiltrated Mexican society’s highest levels.
Investigative journalist Hernández has clearly put herself at risk to assemble this specific social narrative that begins in the 1980s, when Mexican drug trafficking was regionalized and controlled and thus tolerated by the government (and covertly by the United States, as evidenced by traffickers’ involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal). Hernández sees the 2001 prison escape of the aggressive trafficker “El Chapo” Guzman as a crucial watershed for the sharp increase in violence. Guzman then formed a “Federation” among various midlevel cartels, forcing open warfare between that group and the Sinaloa and Gulf cartels and making overt the federal government’s protection of him (beginning with his “escape”). This, in turn, enraged hyperviolent assassin cells in the employ of other drug barons, such as the notorious Zetas, initially composed of compromised Special Forces veterans. The result has been approximately 10,000 murders per year and the thorough discrediting of Mexico’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and political system. Hernández notes that “Felipe Calderon stepped down as president of Mexico in December 2012 [with his term] engraved in collective memory as an era of death and corruption.” The author pulls no punches in backing up such assertions; rather, she reviews evidence showing that the cartels’ real power lies in relationships with untouchable elites in fields like banking and air transport. She similarly demonstrates that key police agencies, such as the Federal Investigations Agency, have been compromised, one of many examples of how “the Mexican government treats the narco-tycoons as untouchable.” Hernández writes clearly, savoring the details and ironies of her investigation, with a tone of righteous polemical outrage, but her tale’s grim implications and intricate narrative connections may prove hard going for casual readers.
Essential reading for a serious understanding of how the war on drugs is destroying the social fabric of South American nations.