El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency

El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency

by Ioan Grillo


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A gripping, sobering account of how Mexican drug gangs have transformed into a criminal insurgency that threatens the nation's democracy and reaches across to the United States.

"Essential reading."-Steve Coll, NewYorker.com

The world has watched, stunned, 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 part of a worldwide shadow economy that threatens Mexico's democracy? The United States throws Black Hawk helicopters, DEA assistance, and lots of money at the problem. But in secret, Washington is at a loss. Who are these mysterious figures who threaten Mexico's democracy? What is El Narco?

El Narco is not a gang; it is a movement and an industry drawing in hundreds of thousands, from bullet-riddled barrios to marijuana-covered mountains. The conflict spawned by El Narco has given rise to paramilitary death squads battling from Guatemala to the Texas border (and sometimes beyond).

In this "propulsive ... high-octane" book (Publishers Weekly), Ioan Grillo draws the first definitive portrait of Mexico's cartels and how they have radically transformed.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608194018
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 11/13/2012
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 47,521
Product dimensions: 5.64(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Ioan Grillo has reported on Latin America since 2001 for international media including TIME magazine, Reuters, CNN, the Associated Press, PBS NewsHour, the Houston Chronicle, CBC, and the Sunday Telegraph. His first book, El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency, was translated into five languages and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. A native of England, Grillo lives in Mexico City.

Table of Contents

Map: The Golden Triangle vii

1 Ghosts 1

Part I History

2 Poppies 17

3 Hippies 38

4 Cartels 55

5 Tycoons 73

6 Democrats 89

7 Warlords 109

Part II Anatomy

8 Traffic 133

9 Murder 152

10 Culture 169

11 Faith 186

12 Insurgency 202

Part III Destiny

13 Prosecution 225

14 Expansion 241

15 Diversification 259

16 Peace 274

Afterword 292

Acknowledgments 299

Books 301

Notes 303

Index 317

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El Narco 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. I really recommend it for every American and Mexican wishing to learn more about the drug war taking place in Mexico.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding book. The author has done extensive research regarding the drug wars in Mexico, and examines it from many different angles, including the growth of quasi-religious groups involved in trafficking narcotics. The story is rich with examples from the author's personal experiences covering the topic, and the examples do an excellent job illustrating the concepts. The author covers the topic, examining it from different angles, without pushing any kind of agenda throughout the book. Understanding what is happening in Mexico is a must for anyone concerned with America's future, and this book is a must for anyone who seeks to understand what is happening in Mexico.
WFVA More than 1 year ago
Excellent book. It describe the reality of the nightmare of narcotraphic in Mexico. This is the never ending story without way out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent, coherent account of Mexico's drug nightmare that does a good job of presenting the facts neutrally (the author's a Brit) and informatively. Enjoyable and educational.
Melkor81205 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
thebookpile on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
zmagic69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Outstanding! This should be required reading for our current government. Everything you thought you knew about the drug cartels, who they are, how they got where they are, and why they are so violent is is explained in detail. This is such a well written and researched book it almost reads like a suspense novel. There is something about British and Australian writers writting about drugs in Mexico and Central and South America. The books are always extremely readable and informative. I am thinking specifically of: Richard Grant God¿s Middle Finger.Charles Nicholl Author of The Fruit Palace.Rusty Young's Marching Powder.This book El Narco is one scary story, and is a major warning call to America and Mexico, that current drug policy is not going to fix the current situation. The author does not say what the solution is specifically, nor does he blame just America, or just Mexico, as there is plenty of blame to spread around all over the world, but if something does not change, America can look forwward to the problems in Mexico coming t a town north of the Rio Grande sooner, rather than later.
PolarBear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Superb. Detailed. Scary, but there's hope in this book, too. As Mr. Grillo lays out the story, it almost seems hopeless, but fortunately, he leaves breadcrumbs of hope carefully placed throughout the book. As he walks you through the bloodshed, the bleak political and economic situation, and other factors, he also tells you why and how Mexico can find its way out of this dark place. If you're looking for an understanding about what is going on in Mexico and how it affects the USA, you'll want this book. The book is well-documented, so interested readers can read more on the subject by finding the reference works cited.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've wanted for some time to read a good explanation of the bloody drug wars that have overtaken much of northern Mexico. This book is superb -- smart, thoughtful, and multifaceted. Ioan Grillo has covered the conflict for a decade as a journalist living in Mexico City and traveling around North, Central, and South America. The first part of the book traces the origins of the Mexican drug cartels and the historical evolution of their conflicts with each other, the Mexican government, and organized crime in other parts of Latin America. The middle chapters explore aspects of narco-culture: the economics that underpin cartel operations today; the cult of death that feeds on the ongoing violence; the paths that lead young people into working for the cartels. The last several chapters examine where narco-violence could go from here -- whether it could metastasize into the U.S., or whether wise policies could contain and ultimately defeat it in Mexico. The story of El Narco involves so much brutality, so much gruesome violence, that parts of the book are difficult to read -- but Grillo warns the reader when these passages are approaching. His writing style is often informal; for this subject, that's immensely helpful, as the human touch in his writing keeps the mind from shutting down in the face of the stories he tells. For all its stylistic informality, the book is rigorously sourced and carefully organized. Grillo offers a few thoughts on how to reduce narco-violence: he suggests that drug legalization, however politically unpalatable in the U.S., would strip the cartels of their massive revenues, and he also argues that poor youth need hope for a better life to resist the seductive pull of the cartels. But the chief virtue of this book is not its blueprint for policy, but its nuanced insights into where El Narco came from and how it functions today.
spacecommuter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
lpg3d on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo is an outstanding chronicle of the Mexican drug war. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in understanding why there is such a drug war, how it started, and why it's not going to go away anytime soon. Thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewer's for a chance to read this excellent book.
Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
A great book.  Did I enjoy this book: I loved it! Like many Americans, I’ve visited Mexico and loved the country. Headlines of drug wars disturbed me, especially when I lived in the deep South. Many of our friends came to the U.S. from Mexico, and we’d previously enjoyed crossing the boarder without concern.  What changed? What made parts of Mexico some of the most dangerous places in our hemisphere? El Narco does a great job of explaining a very complicated international problem.  Grillo resists the temptation to sensationalize the violence and scare readers unnecessarily. He does, however, make the situation just south of the border easier to comprehend. Would I recommend it: If you enjoy nonfiction, this is a great book. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Book Reviews.
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Never mind! Go to Merisel's last name res one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book...
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