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Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State? Hardcover – August 31, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-1412811514 ISBN-10: 1412811511

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 275 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (August 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412811511
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412811514
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #711,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Grayson has written one of the most comprehensive books on the narco-violence in Mexico. The author provides historical insight into the antecedents of drug production, processing, transportation, and consumption and the evolution of the war on drugs and its impact on the broader US-Mexico relationship. . . . This is one of the best books on the subject to date. Highly recommended for policy makers, graduate students, and anyone interested in the gruesome violence that plagues Mexico today.”

—I. Coronado, Choice

"No, the United States' southern neighbor, with its many sophisticated institutions and complex social networks, is not the next Afghanistan. But as the veteran Mexico watcher Grayson documents in lurid and depressing detail, powerful drug traffickers have corrupted the country's political and law enforcement establishments at all levels. The cartels simply have too much money, and the U.S. government, despite four decades of waging its 'war on drugs,' has utterly failed to stem the cross-border drug flows and the distribution networks that continuously replenish criminal coffers. Grayson seems to approve of recent U.S. programs transferring equipment and technology to Mexican security forces, and he respects Mexican President Felipe Calderón's bold, forceful counterattacks against the criminal gangs. But Grayson's bottom line is pessimistic: 'It is extremely difficult--probably impossible--to eradicate the cartels. They or their offshoots will fight to hold on to an enterprise that yields Croesus-like fortunes.' More out of desperation than desire, Grayson proposes that the United States begin 'thinking about the unthinkable: decriminalization.'"

—Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs Magazine

"[A] historical analysis of Mexico’s political past and the relationship between the country’s ruling class, drug traffickers and society, which is important in understanding the roots of the battle being waged among traffickers today and the institutional weaknesses that have allowed the drug trade to flourish in Mexico. . . . this book provides details about the drug trafficking organizations themselves, their relationships with local, state and federal politicians and each other, and the rise of two new organizations in recent years—Los Zetas and La Familia—which have brought new levels of violence and cruelty to the historic disputes among traffickers in Mexico. Although the names and situations scattered throughout the book can sometimes be confusing, the author’s ‘who’s who’ table on the drug trafficking organizations and other tables with diverse information on the drug trade in Mexico provide valuable information for anyone attempting to make sense of the complex network of actors involved in drug trafficking in the country."

International Affairs

“[A]n extremely thorough and comprehensive history and analysis of the rise of the cartels in the context of the weaknesses of the Mexican state . . .  he's got all the busts and the shootouts, he's got what is so far the definitive history of the cartels and Mexico's response to them . . . we also get a history lesson on Mexican politics and culture . . . Grayson's [book] belongs in the library as a desk reference for anyone really serious about following the cartels and Mexican politics.”               

—Phillip Smith, Chronicle Reviews

“One of the virtues of the book is Grayson’s examination of the rise and evolution of the modern Mexican state. Too often the U.S. discussion of Mexico comes without any political context. What makes his examination of the state and politics in Mexico so fascinating is the recent return of the PRI as the country’s major political force – an ominous trend, according to Grayson, given the PRI’s history of patronage politics, its opportunistic ‘revolutionary nationalism,’ and its unreformed ways.”

—Tom Barry, Border Lines

"Few American academics writing about Mexico today know more about security, electoral politics, drug-trafficking and criminal violence issues than George Grayson." Mexico, Narco-Violence and a Failed State? addresses the significant consequences of each in a lively and provocative manner, providing revealing, current, and controversial insights into their impact on its political stability, social fabric, and relations with the United States. Anyone hoping to grasp the difficult, multiple, and complex aspects of drug trafficking in our southern neighbor should read this book. 

—Roderic Ai Camp, McKenna Professor of the Pacific Rim, Claremont McKenna College

"William and Mary Professor George Grayson ranks among the most knowledgeable and insightful analysts of Mexican society and politics writing today. His new book on Mexico's bloody and brutal drug cartels constitutes a major contribution to the growing body of research on the '"drug thugs' who are making bilions by trafficking drugs in Mexico and through their country into the United States while wreaking havoc on both sides of the border. His detailed case studies of Mexico's major drug 'cartels' or organized crime families active in the lucrative illicit narcotics trade - the leadership and internal dynamics of the major criminal organizations, the rivalries and shifting alliances among these ruthless groups, and the shockingly violent tactics they employ against each other, the Mexican government and the Mexican people - make for a fascinating but sobering read. Concisely written and painstakingly documented, Grayson's book is a must for anyone interested in understanding what is happening in the United States' besieged southern neighbor and the implications that Mexico's current crisis holds for American society, American security and U.S.-Mexican bilateral relations."

—Bruce M. Bagley, University of Miami

"One of the greatest fallacies committed today amongst those who discuss and write about organized crime in Mexico is a limited understanding of Mexico's political history, especially how and why the country's leaders have engaged with criminal actors for decades. George Grayson's review of this history is a crisp, concise explanation that expertly frames Mexico today: a country struggling to confront unprecedented narco-violence. Grayson layers this historical backdrop with a full account of Mexican organized crime; it is one of the most thorough discussions of Mexican organized crime that I have ever seen, in English or Spanish. This book is a must read for anyone interested to know why thousands die in Mexico every year and what we can expect to see in Mexico for the rest of President Calderon's term and beyond."

Samuel Logan, Journalist Writer

"Characterized by exhaustive research, rare in-depth knowledge of the subject outside Mexico, and compassionate wit, George Grayson's new book confirms him as one of the most distinguished scholars of Mexican politics and history. No other publication to date has unpacked and analyzed so thoroughly the labyrinthine and brutal underworld of Mexico's feared drug cartels and their complex relationship with the country's authorities and society."

—Dr. Francisco E. Gonzalez, Riordan Roett Chair in Latin American Studies, The Johns Hopkins University

About the Author

George W. Grayson is professor of government emeritus at the College of William & Mary, an associate scholar at Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies. He is the author of Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?


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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
One of the greatest fallacies committed today amongst those who discuss and write about organized crime in Mexico is a limited understanding of Mexico's political history, especially how and why the country's leaders have engaged with criminals actors for decades. George Grayson's review of this history is a crisp, concise explanation that expertly frames Mexico today: a country struggling to confront unprecedented narco-violence. Grayson layers this historical backdrop with a full account of Mexican organized crime; it is one of the most thorough discussions of Mexican organized crime that I have ever seen, in English or Spanish. This book is a must read for anyone interested to know why thousands dies in Mexico every year and what we can expect to see in Mexico for the rest of President Calderon's term and beyond.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Javier Munoz on February 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book, with excellent material and lots of valuable information. It definetely shows that the author has done extensive research on the subject, and it provides a good overview of the historical elements that led Mexico to this violent war, and the role the United States has played.
There are, however, several mistakes. Some are simple factual errors, one of them already in the first page, some simply grammatical errors and misspelling of spanish phrases. One upsetting aspect is that chapter 1 has a section missing, probably due to a printing error, so one parapragh cuts off on one page, and the following page begins a whole new section. You may want to wait until a new corrected batch is printed, or a new edition is published.
Other than that, I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning the basics of the Mexican Cartel wars.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By EEC on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Few American academics writing about Mexico today know more about security, electoral politics, drug-trafficking and criminal violence issues than George Grayson. Mexico, Narco-Violence and a Failed State? addresses the significant consequences of each in a lively and provocative manner, providing revealing, current, and controversial insights into their impact on its political stability, social fabric, and relations with the United States. Anyone hoping to grasp the difficult, multiple, and complex aspects of drug trafficking in our southern neighbor should read this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Donald Moffitt on November 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Fictional thrillers just can't quite compare with George Grayson's real world examination of the narcotics empires of Mexico. His contribution to Mexican history and an understanding of its political culture makes it even more valuable. It really ought to be read by anyone with an interest in Mexico. At my advanced age there are very few books for which I burn the midnight oil while reading. This one is near the top of the list.
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Format: Hardcover
This scholarly work is very useful in providing an understanding of the ongoing conflict between the disparate cartels and the Mexican state. Grayson provides a context for this conflict by discussing the anatomy of the illicit economy itself and how it frames the current conflict, the origins of the trafficking of illicit substances, the cartels and their predecessors, and how changes in the political system of the Mexican state had a profound influence on the development and evolution of the criminal organizations that are the cartels of today. Grayson makes clear that the burgeoning power of the cartels, violence, corruption and myriad other problems in Mexico exist on a societal level and stem largely from the incomptetence and culture of corruption of the Mexican government.

The bulk of the book is a narrative of the activities of the cartels, problems beleaguering the Mexican state (which stem largely from failings in governance), how the perpetuation of these problems are potentially symptomatic of state failure, and the Mexican governments's response to these issues. In response to the ever-increasing magnitude of these problems, the Mexican government has embarked on a campaign to reform on a previously unseen scale. Grayson provides a critique of policies adopted by both the US and Mexico in response to these problems.

Grayson also discusses in detail the cartels themselves: their structure, constituents, modus operandi, territories and the way they interact with each other, the state and the citizenry. These cartels have grown immensely wealthy from cocaine trafficking and as a result wield a dispropotionately great deal of power.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Snapdragon on March 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book for a graduate-level course, Drug Politics in the Americas, and if I could give it a zero-star rating, I would. In the acknowledgments at the beginning of the book, the author makes a tongue-in-cheek comment about his cat adding content to the manuscript; upon reading it, I have to wonder if he should credit the cat as co-author and/or editor, because it was terrible. There was no structure to the book to help the reader make sense of it; the author jumped around from one topic to the next and name-dropped so many cartel members (each of whom has at least three names plus a cutesy nickname) that it was impossible to keep any of them straight, even after reading the same passage multiple times. From the title of the last chapter, you would expect it to be about the author's assessment of the likelihood of Mexico becoming a failed state; instead, it's more about his recommendations on where to go with the drug war, and the afterward is where he actually touches upon the failed state issue. The book was replete with odd wording, names mentioned twice in one paragraph but with different spellings each time, wrong words (one example: a sentence used "help" instead of "held", which made no sense), and erratic use of punctuation. I was left with a strong desire to attack the book with a red marker and send it back to the author or his publishers, but I won't waste my time reading this mess a second time. Hands down, the worst book I've been assigned in my graduate program.
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