Saturday, July 23, 2011

Malcolm Beith's The Last Narco

I read Malcolm Beith's The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World's Most Wanted Drug Lord and enjoyed it. The title, however, is not entirely accurate since most of the book is about the drug organizations in Mexico and the government fight against them rather an inside account of the search for Chapo.  The military and police won't talk, so it is virtually impossible to get inside the hunt.

It is both chilling and discouraging. The details of how deep the TCOs reach into every corner of Mexico are morbidly fascinating. They aren't really new to anyone who reads the news regularly, but Beith's book brings it to gory life.

One of the serious challenges for the Mexican government is the fact that the army is not welcomed in many parts of Mexico, either because people like what Chapo (and other similar leaders) give them and/or because they see all state institutions as fundamentally corrupt and violent. There is far too little trust, and even less trust between the military and the police.

Finally, the book shows how many years drug kingpins like Chapo were setting up their operations. It is convenient to blame Felipe Calderón with his strong militarized policies beginning in 2006, but there are many other contributing factors. The cartel infighting had already been growing, which brought with it new levels of brutality as they moved into each other's territories.  The balloon effect from Colombia and the end of the PRI's reign in the presidency also helped set the stage. The complex confluence of all those factors would be a great research project.

As a coincidental P.S., Beith recent wrote a post on his blog about how Chapo seems to be losing influence in Mexico, even as his global reach has expanded.


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