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El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal…
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El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency (edition 2012)

by Ioan Grillo

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1261295,586 (4.42)21
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Title:El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency
Authors:Ioan Grillo
Info:Bloomsbury Press (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library, Kindle
Rating:***
Tags:Mexico cartel Sinaloa Zetas violence kidnapping drugs border Juarez COIN federal

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El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo

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El Narco is truly one of the best books of nonfiction that there is on the Mexican drug situation. 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 book.

Ioan 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 more militarized into "paramilitary death squads" 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 US/Mexico 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 involvement

But 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 development.

As 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 poppy/opium/narcotics market to a major insurgency and an all-out war which threatens to explode into unprecedented violence and a very real threat ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Aug 7, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book deeply disturbed me. The once great nation of Mexico morphed into a failed state through the epidemic wrought by an out-of-control drug culture. The narco-gangster culture spawned by marijuana and cocaine seems to have taken over large territories in Mexico where the police are frequently targeted for assassination. Children act as drug mules. The horror of Mexican drug killings are clearly and shockingly described by Grillo. The butchery is staggering. Grillo has a set of cojones. Well written narrative that made me keep reading even though the subject matter was incredibly harsh and unforgiving. ( )
  mmmjay | Jan 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is one of those books that gets your attention from the opening page and does not let go. This is also one of those books where you need to put it down at times to process the gravity of what the author has just said. Ioan Grillo takes the reader to modern day Mexico and then brings us to the events that lead us to the current state of affairs in that troubled country.But Grillo does so much more than just tells us how A lead to B which can be solved by C, he shows us the attitudes and culture surrounding this crisis.

This is a must read for any student of true crime, social issues, or Central and Southern American history. The material is sordid and at times a lot to process but thankfully the author does have a sense of humor which helps the reader from getting to down while reading about the seemingly hopeless cycle of violence that has engulfed Mexico. ( )
  Melkor81205 | Apr 16, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was a fantastic book to read, albeit a disturbing one. The gritty reality of Mexico's drug war is thrown at the reader right from the first page: cold-blooded murders in broad daylight on city streets; abductions and terrifying ransom videos, with fingers sent in the mail; the poverty that feeds the system with an endless supply of new recruits. Like all big problems, the story is so depressing not only because of the horrific acts but because the problems seems so intractable.

I have a huge amount of respect for Ioan Grillo's work in Mexico after reading this and I'll freely admit that I had to put it down on more than one occasion, just to catch my breath. The writing is great, the stories are heart-wrenching, and I appreciate the fact that Grillo doesn't come across as a know-it-all with a handy solution to all of these problems. Like a good journalist, he reports thoroughly about what is going down and lets the data and anecdotes speak for themselves. ( )
  thebookpile | Apr 15, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
It seems like I have more to say about a book when I don't like it, so I'll have very little to say here. I comprehensively enjoyed this book and I recommend it highly. The author was a journalist in Mexico for years and saw the fallout from the War on Drugs up close. Incorporating his own notes and interviews with people from those days - including many who were murdered after speaking with him - he reaches far beyond his own vantage point and draws in history, military strategy, policy, geography and economics to comprehensively cover every angle of El Narco. I have finished the book feeling like I've truly gotten an education into every aspect of narcotic trafficking, policing, use and victimization. So when he reaches the inevitable endpoint - a discussion of "that toxic, contentious, prohibited, muddled, and crucially needed argument - the legalization debate" I am actually ready to hear what he says.

Because even as he raises impossible situations - whether Mexico is right to use the military to fight narcos, given that narcos are citizens and innocents get caught up in their net with horrible consequences, whether the United States should and could legalize drugs, or at least marijuana - he acknowledges the other side, the rocks and the hard places, the failure of current policies and the fatuous arguments for the alternatives.

These are tough, tough issues, and this is the book you should read if you want to understand them. ( )
  spacecommuter | Feb 14, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
There's no question that Mexican society has been traumatized by the violence of the past five years; but through it all, some have found a way to cope. Grillo says that in Ciudad Juarez — a town he describes as "the most murderous city on the planet" — people have started going to the opera.
"People are saying, 'Well this opera is an amazing chance for us to forget about this drug violence,' " Grillo says. " 'While you hear the music, it won't make anything better or improve your life; but at least for those minutes of hearing the music you can find an escape and imagine things getting better.' "
 
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"The world has watched stunned at the bloodshed in Mexico. Forty 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 squares. And it is all because a few Americans are getting high. Or is it? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters, DEA assistance, and money 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 cartels and how they have radically transformed in the past 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-covered mountains. The conflict spawned by El Narco has given rise to paramilitary death squads enlisting tens of thousands of men-at-arms ready to do battle from Guatemala to the Texas border (and sometimes beyond.) Journalist Ioan Grillo has spent a decade in Mexico covering the drug war 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 the United States is very much a part of the battleground."--Book jacket.… (more)

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