An inside account of the international cocaine trade.
Italian investigative journalist Saviano has lived under armed guard since the 2006 publication of his bestselling debut, Gomorrah: A Personal Journey into the Violent International Empire of Naples’s Organized Crime System. This revealing new book, with a strong focus on Mexico’s cartels, surges with fast-moving prose detailing the lives of drug lords and pushers, the inner workings of their violent world, and how their lucrative business (between $25 billion and $50 billion annually) affects all our lives. “The world’s drowning in unhappiness,” he writes. “Mexico has the solution: cocaine.” An obsessive (“My White Whale is cocaine”), Saviano says reporting on drugs—in the hope it will foster change—gives meaning to his life. His stories offer a close glimpse of Mexico’s cartels: the biggest, the Sinaloa cartel, owns 160 million acres. La Familia cartel recruits in drug rehabs and lavishes money on peasants and churches. The Knights Templar cartel, with a rigid honor code, portrays itself as a protector of widows and orphans. Between 2006 and 2011, such cartels killed 31 Mexican mayors and more than 47,000 other people. Working like remarkably efficient, moneymaking machines, they use Africa, with its poor border controls, as a drug warehouse, build submarines (capable of carrying 10 tons of cocaine) in hidden jungle shipyards, and teach aspiring mules how to package and ingest cocaine-filled capsules at a school in Curacao. Saviano describes the complexities of money laundering, how world banks help make it possible, and the many ways in which drugs are smuggled: in paintings, handcrafted doors, frozen fish, and more. Throughout, the author provides vivid stories of the lives of well-known drug bosses and their minions.
Saviano says he can no longer look at a beach or a map without seeing cocaine, and many will share that view after reading this dark, relentless, hyperreal report.