One of the clearest accounts yet of the causes for the violence in Ciudad Juárez and the convoluted politics behind Mexico’s attempts to keep it from dragging the whole nation down.
Ainslie (Education/Univ. of Texas; Long Dark Road: Bill King and Murder in Jasper, Texas, 2004, etc.), a psychologist and filmmaker with dual Mexican and American citizenship, interviewed scores of Juárenses over some of the worst years for violence (2007-2010). By chance, they coincided with the mayoral term of José Reyes Ferriz, who is effectively the central figure of the narrative. A member of Mexico’s deeply entrenched Institutional Revolutionary Party (known by its Spanish initials PRI), Reyes Ferriz was at odds with the party’s old regime leadership as represented by the governor of Juárez’s state of Chihuahua, José Reyes Baeza. This political rift stemmed as much from Mexico’s decade-old experiment in democracy, which allowed parties other than PRI to win elections, as it did from the increasingly violent wars for control of the drug traffic to the United States by rival cartels based in Juarez and Sinaloa, which Mexican President Felipe Calderón has tried to fight with the national military. It’s a complicated story with tangles of threads leading all over the place—from PRI’s repression of student and leftist dissent in the 1960s and ’70s to the expiration of the U.S. assault weapons ban in 2004 that led to a radical spike in the appearance of deadly AR-15 automatic rifles in the hands of cartel operatives. Though occasionally miring the story in repetitious regurgitation of news clips, Ainslie does best when focusing on the often heartbreaking stories of the long-suffering people of Juárez.
A hard-nosed, cleareyed analysis of a legacy of institutionalized corruption and its dire consequences for human lives.