Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Los Señores

I just finished Los Señores del Narco, one of the more copiously researched books on Mexican drug traffickers I've ever read. Unfortunately, the fruits of her investigation are organized under the overarching narrative that the Sinaloa Cartel is all-powerful, and virtually everything that happens with regard to organized crime and the combat of it in Mexico is a product of the Sinaloa Cartel's machinations. This naturally leads to her credulously embracing many dubious conclusions. Among them:
Vicente Fox let Chapo Guzmán out of prison in exchange for tens of millions of dollars

Marta Sahagún loved Genaro García Luna because he would personally deliver her suitcases full of cash

García Luna headed a gigantic kidnapping ring at the AFI

Mayo Zambada took down the plane that killed Mouriño and Santiago Vasconcelos, using C4

Amado Carrillo and Nacho Coronel are both alive

The US only worries about drug lords when they take their money out of US banks (as silly as it sounds, I promise it is a faithful paraphrase)

The US drug war is false
There are more similarly outlandish claims. Evidence that cut against those conclusions --the extradition of the son of Zambada, or the fact that C4 is typically used to blow up buildings rather than airborne planes, or, most obviously, the billions upon billions of dollars the US has spent and the millions of people it has incarcerated in the pursuit of a policy that is "false"-- are given very little attention, if they are given any at all.

Any book author is not just a reporter, but a filter and an interpreter, and this role is all the more important if the topic is as complicated and removed from the public eye as is drug-trafficking. A belief in all of the above illustrates such a skewed perception of the world that it basically disqualifies the holder of said beliefs from being a trustworthy interpreter of anything. (I should also mention the flimsy basis for many of these claims: anonymous sources, circumstantial evidence, testimony from non-credible witnesses commenting on their enemies, including one character whose failure of a polygraph test does not prevent him from being quoted at length.) Which is really a shame, because she has obviously done a hell of a lot of research, and some of the allegations are certainly true.

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