DESPERADOS: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can't Win by Elaine Shannon
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DESPERADOS: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can't Win

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Complementing volume to the recent The Cocaine Wars (p. 588) by Paul Eddy, Hugo Sabogal and Sara Walden, this focuses largely on the drug wars in Mexico--where Eddy et al., surveying Central and South America, focused on the cocaine trade based in Colombia. Shannon attacks a formidably huge tract of evil and a host of blood-shedding traffickers and comes away with an infinitely layered picture of malfeasance that leaves the reader baffled and hopeless. She offers little by way of solution, instead trying to enlighten by illuminating the politics of drugs and ""the realities of the American government's approach to the dilemmas of drug enforcement, particularly its efforts, or lack of efforts, overseas."" The DEA viewpoint is that law enforcement in the drug trade conflicts with US economic and national security interests and the US's geopolitical agenda. This results in ""excessive secrecy used to mask stupidity, duplicity, venality, and arrogance in the United States government and in those nations it claims as allies."" US drug enforcement is surreal all by itself, but moving into Mexican law enforcement is a trip to hell. Shannon shows at great length just what happened to a leading DEA agent, Enrique ""Kiki"" Camarena. Married, with three children, and perhaps the most respected American agent in Mexico, Camarena was burning out and up for transfer to San Diego when he was kidnapped during his lunch hour, tortured, and murdered. Tapes of the torture and other evidence later fell into DEA hands. Mexican officials, who had already stonewalled any meaningful investigation, folded their hands, said the surmised chief criminal was already arrested for another crime and nothing more need be done. What justice is possible? Camarena's wife answers bitterly, ""God will make it."" Belongs in every library.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1988
Publisher: Viking