Book review: Narcoland, By Anabel Hernández
The stark truth of a sham 'war'
Anabel Hernández’s Los Señores del Narco was explosive when it was published in Mexico in 2010. The investigation into the country’s drug cartels and their links with the highest echelons of Mexican government sold 100,000 copies (a huge number for Mexico).
It led to Hernández, a journalist, receiving death threats; the National Human Rights Commission assigning her two full-time bodyguards; and her family being threatened by gunmen in January 2011. In a country where 56 journalists have been killed since Mexico began its “War on Drugs” in 2006, such threats are taken very seriously.
A product of five years’ investigative reporting, Hernández’s meticulously researched explanation of the links between the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s biggest criminal organisation, and Mexico’s leadership makes for jaw-dropping reading.
One stand-out instance is her blow-by-blow account of the operation to free one of the world’s most powerful drug lords, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, from Puente Grande prison in 2001. Contrary to the official line, that he escaped from the prison, Hernández writes that the event was carefully planned, he was given a police uniform as a disguise, and allowed to walk free – after sipping a celebratory drink of rum and cola.
More than 100,000 people are believed to have been killed in Mexico’s drug war, with a further 20,000 missing. But the estimates of the cost vary wildly, making Hernández’s weighty fact-driven narrative both refreshing and unnerving. That is not to say that she holds back on the sensational movie-style details of violence and excess which grab attention. But by naming names, and describing events in minute detail, Hernández is careful to remind her readers that this is reality, and people live and die by the repercussions of the drug industry.
The English translation of her work can be clunky at times, but Hernández’s passion for exposing corruption is still evident.
She describes Mexico as a “mafiocracy” – one that began with the government’s protection of the old Guadalajara cartel in the 1980s and continues with the protection of El Chapo’s Sinaloa syndicate today.
“Many of the politicians and businessmen that you will come across in the pages of this book are not mere spectres of the past,” Hernández writes.
“They are figures who still hold positions of power. As long as they remain in place, Mexico will continue to be Narcoland.”
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >