El Narco

I just finished reading one of the most stimulating books I’ve read in recent memory. It’s titled El Narco by Ioan Grillo and explores the murky and terrifying world of Mexico’s drug cartels and the violence that accompanies it.

Between corrupt cops and “federales”, young boys turned into hitmen, and criminal psychopaths (his words not mine)there is seemingly no end to the chaos that leaves more bodies than answers and makes headless corpses in town squares a normality.

Sometimes even more mindblowing is that a book published in 2011 about serial assassins and career criminals could possibly involve characters such as El Chapo who are still inexplicably free. Not only free but in the public eye, as at the time of writing this he is currently trending on Twitter.

The majority of my curiosity is focused on the central part of the issue (the trafficking and murders of innocent people). But what was so thought-provoking about the drug war was the uncertainty of day-to-day life and the fact that no one was or is assured to be spared of a fate similar to thousands before them. High school honor students and grandmothers driving on the highway were among those caught in the crosshairs.

It’s hard to imagine living in a world where you are just as likely to be killed outside of a gang as in it. In America we have our own fair share of problems as it relates to gun violence, but the vast majority are killed by their involvement in gangs. Meanwhile in Mexico, you are in some ways safer in a cartel as you are at least offered a form of protection, although no one is safe from a rival gang. Young kids in many slums across Mexico face the daunting and surreal fact that cartel life is often not only the most appealing but also the most promising life and for many represents the only guarantee of escaping their slum to a higher social class, no matter how short-lived.

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