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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2012
This year I started reading books on this topic, the first one was: To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War by John Gibler, which I taught was good, but a little short. The second book was El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo, which I was and still am impressed by it, and at the moment I'm reading Cartel, which feels so amateurish in comparison to the other two.

I'm not an expert critic and its hard to pin point what is the worst of it, but it feels all over the place. And S. Longmire start sentences with "Meth labs are funny things." And she talks about hypothetical cases when sadly there are thousand of real cases to talk about. It could be that she writes only with info, data, and news that she has read and not out of first hand experiences. This is why after every page I finish, instead been amazed as I was with every page of El Narco, I'm left with a feeling of having just absorbed regurgitated words.

The only pro is that the publishing quality is great. Only buy it If you want to add a red covered book to your library collection.

or

Read her blog first, and if you like her style buy her book.
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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2011
Although the book does provide some information, it comes off more as an Wikipedia entry than a thoughtful analysis. As other reviews have pointed out, it lacks the on-the-ground perspective that other better books such as "El Narco" by Ioun Grillo have. The author herself states that her view of the Mexican drug war was largely shaped through working as an analyst pouring over government reports, satellite imagery, etc. While all of this info is valid, there is a limit to what one can see without actually being there, and this flawed book is evidence of that.
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65 of 78 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2011
After all the hype this book received it turned out to be a major disappointment, an insult to anyone at all familiar with Mexican politics. As I read I scribbled notes and scratched my head in disbelief. Longmire makes statements that are more than debatable, they are dead wrong ("Mexico has been a democracy with relatively transparent elections for quite some time.") and absolute nonsense like "Tourism is rebounding..." despite cruise ships refusing to make vacant Acapulco a port of call, and the border towns all but closed down and borded up.
It's almost hilarious, but when she writes with admiration about the Mexican government it seems the only adjective she uses is "bold." She never questions the nation's leaders when it comes to honesty, making the president appear to be a mixture of Lincoln, Juarez, and Gandhi. But when it comes to the biggest cause of the violent warfare (supply and demand fueled by the U.S. prohibition of marijuana) she blithely dismisses it as the United States "greedy love of drugs." One can't help but wonder if she is aware that alcohol is a drug, and that Mexico was a source of the banned substance during the bloody turf wars caused by the Volstead Act. Wasn't Capone the head of a nasty cartel?

Yes, Longmire got to interview President Calderon and she was apparently overwhelmed (whereas more intelligent people such as Javier Sicilia are underwhelmed) because she gushes ".. he gets a steely look in his eyes and speaks with quiet fire. It quickly becomes obvious that this is a man who is committed...")

Her knowledge of Mexican history is a bit lacking, or her interpretations of events strangely warped because she writes off a few "isolated incidents" of human rights abused by the Mexican Army, and the allegations are being "appropriately investigated." Sure, Sylvia they might be quickly "investigated", but only by the accused perpetrators - the Mexican Army! I think groups such as Amnesty International would forcefully disagree with Longmire's public relations project. She goes on to claim that the purpose of the Mexican Army is "...not to be a fighting army but to participate in rescue efforts when a natural disaster strikes the country." Apparently she hasn't spent much time in Mexico or else she would have seen caravans of well-armed, masked soldiers cruising city streets with high-caliber automatic weapons mounted on the back of pickup trucks. They scare the hell out of everyone because they will engage in a firefight regardless where - in school zones, in traffic, neighborhoods - anywhere there appears to be some bad guys.

I could go on and on, but one final point about the army: they were the cold-blooded murderers that mowed down hundreds of unarmed college students in the Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968. She must have forgotten about that...

This just scratches the surface of a really bad pro drug war book written by what appears to be a narrow-minded, gullible Tea Party admirer, and it has absolutely nothing to offer anyone seriously interested in a balanced, insightful, accurate and unbiased appraisal of an enormously important situation. We have supported our own drug war, a 40-year-old failure that cost hundreds of billions of dollars and
continues unabated. Our anti-marijuana laws go back to Harry Anslinger, who had even less credibility than Sylvia Longmire.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Sylvia Longmire's research is thorough and well-presented in this book. If you are unfamiliar with the thorny issues surrounding the Mexican drug wars and how they are affecting - and affected by the United States, this is a great read that will open your eyes to the players involved and how this affects you. Well-written, professional journalism that makes a strong effort to be even-handed, Longmire took on a difficult project and completed it well. This subject is changing so quickly, however, that you will want to subscribe to Longmire's blog to gain a more complete understanding of the US role in the violence as more facts are uncovered in the Fast and Furious scandal.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2011
CARTEL certainly opened my eyes to the pervasive and dangerous drug threat facing all U.S. residents, not just those near our national borders, large cities and major urban areas. This book was a seriously needed wake-up call for a small-town girl from the Midwest. These threats have managed to creep into America's "heartland" -- areas I previously thought were "safe" from, or even immune to, powerful, manipulative and bloody Mexican cartels. The things depicted in movies like "BLOW" and "Traffic" are actually happening in every stitch of America's fabric. While I am glad to be enlightened, I pray for all those who fight every day to keep that fabric from unraveling. An excellent, must-read!
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2011
This book is very conversational and "story-telling" in its nature. It's intended for people like me, those who aren't that familiar with the threat of Mexico's cartels and those who live away from the border. I found it easy to read, informative, and sometimes worrisome. Great book!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2011
The Coming Invasion of Mexico's Drug Wars
By Sylvia Longmire
St. Martin's Press 246 pgs
978-0-230-11137-0
Rating: Yeah....Okay + 1/2

As an introduction to the subject of Mexico's drug wars, Cartel does a good job. It tells you who they are, what they do, and how they do it. The book reads like a textbook and the data is impeccable. It comes alive at times with anecdotes but otherwise is pretty dry. The author, Sylvia Longmire, was an analyst for drug trafficking and border violence for the state of California, which is why Cartel sounds as if it was written by an analyst. I don't recommend it for someone who has been following the news and National Geographic or lives in a border state (I live in Texas and know a few people who have relatives in Mexico) because you won't learn anything you don't already know. But for beginners it is ideal.

The book begins with a short history of cartels in Mexico from their beginnings to the present day, names such as El Chapo, Arellano, Fuentes, Sinaloa and Los Zetas. Once upon a time a man named Gallardo was the king of the cartel. Then he broke up his own monopoly and created Baby Bell cartels with his people in charge. Seems to me that someone should have foreseen that the result would be competition, and that competition would lead to fights over smuggling corridors in the future. There was a time when the Mexican cartels followed the same creed as the Mafia in this country (not that the Mafia is a good thing.) They negotiated, family members were strictly off limits, violence against law enforcement was to be avoided and necessary violence was kept in-house. Sort of an honor among thieves thing. No more. The cartels in Mexico have flipped their lids. They kidnap, torture, kill and extort. Their victims are everybody. To make matters even worse, law enforcement in Mexico, from the local beat cop to the attorney general, are notoriously corrupt, paid off by the cartels to at best look the other way, and at worst perform an execution or two themselves.

And now these atrocities happen here. Phoenix has had such an increase in kidnappings that they have formed a special task force. Arms trafficking is a growing problem especially in Arizona and Texas which have the most lenient state laws. Straw buyers visit gun shops and shows and purchase several firearms that they then deliver to the guy who will take the guns across the border. This is important because, believe it or not, guns are not easy to buy in Mexico. Serial number searches have proven the link between US firearms and deaths in Mexico and in this country.

The cartels are a business like any other, and as such look for efficiencies. One of these is using US public lands such as national parks to grow marijuana. This way they don't have to try and run the product across the border and risk detection. Two or three employees of the cartel will scout a location; set up camp, which can include generators, irrigation pipes, trip-wires, etc. They are armed and will live with and protect the crop from planting through harvest and processing. Our park rangers and law enforcement are up against much more dangerous criminals than have historically been encountered in our parks. So this is another way that the drug war is spreading north from our border.

Presidents of Mexico and their administrations have failed miserably in the past to crack down on the cartels. But in 2006 Felipe Calderon was elected president and he immediately announced a new policy. He would bring the fight to the cartels with the Mexican Army. He deployed thousands of soldiers, then he fired large numbers of state and local law enforcement for corruption. New officers are hired only after they pass a lie detector test. Judicial reforms have been implemented to make the process transparent to encourage in the public more faith in the system. President Calderon has also floated novel legislation to ease up on criminal penalties for users in the hopes that the drug prices would drop and become less lucrative for the cartels. The jury is still out.

The author puts forward a few strategies and tactics to lessen the flow of drugs into the United States and lessen the danger of the fallout of Mexico's drug wars. She says we need to learn to manage a war that we can't win. We should send more money to the right places, increase use of the National Guard, change some of our own drug and gun laws, etc. Those last two will realistically never be done.

President Calderon has about a billion strikes against him and those strikes are dollar bills. Consider what he's up against. Cartel chiefs have been listed in Forbes magazine's list of the world's top billionaires and Forbes world's most powerful people. Check out El Chapo Which brings up an interesting point. The truth is that the cartels incomes are larger than Mexico's defense budget. Larger. More money than the government. There's an event coming up in 2012 in Mexico which I cannot stress enough the significance. Mexico elects a new president next year. I'll be watching with great interest because cartel influence will make or break the next presidency.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2013
Although this book was written (in my opinion) for a very specific audience (middle America), it lacked a lot of general Cartel information (I could have gone to Wikipedia and learned more about the Cartels for free). The author boasts about her credientials as an analysts; however, no inside information not available to the general public through open source research was revealed. I applaud the courage, time and effort that it takes to write and publish a book; however, based on what the title advertises and what it actually delivers, the book is overpriced.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2014
I've read there are better books out there on this topic. Avoid this one- I didn't really gain any new information other than what you hear on the news. There's a lot of fear-mongering about how the drug war is spilling over to the United States and how it's very un-safe to travel to Mexico. Very dubious claims, to say the least.

If anything, the author (a Border Security analyst, or somesuch) has a bone to pick with her superiors and is fundraising for the DEA, ATF, and other agencies.

Skip this, you're not missing out on anything revelatory.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 31, 2013
This book has to have been paid for by the Mexican army. It contains loads of falsehoods and the analysis is skewed. She treats the military like they are some kind of humanitarian organization, which is far, far from the truth. She refuses to recognize that, whatever the pitfalls may be, decriminalizing drugs in the United States would be a massive hit to the cartels and their reign of terror in Mexico.
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