Today I spoke to Ioan Grillo about his book El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency (Bloomsbury, 2012). This book is an excellent introduction to the state of conflict between drug cartels themselves, the government and the Mexican community. This is not an academic study of criminology. Ioan has reported from Mexico for many years and he has brought together his accumulated wisdom into this book. The final product provides the multi-dimensional story and analysis of the events in that country. He explains how external factors such as the war on drugs in Columbia and internal issues relating to the nature of governance in Mexico have influenced the current situation. But this is more than just a retelling of criminal activity. Ioan gives an insight into the social aspects of the drug culture including the glorification of the participants in popular music and the religious justifications used by some cartels. El Narco is a fascinating book that read to me like a sci-fi almost post-apocalyptic world that actually exists. It is hard for someone from a more stable Western environment to comprehend this alien culture. Having said that Ioan’s account is not a sensationalized account of the events in Mexico but more an empathic expose of a very violent and ungoverned part of the world. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in organized crime and the broader social context in which it operates.
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