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El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency by [Grillo, Ioan]
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El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency Kindle Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 315 customer reviews

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Length: 336 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Details

  • File Size: 2840 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Publication Date: November 1, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005TIM8BW
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,047 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Driving up dirt trails into the Sierra Madre to visit poppy farmers. Scoping out cartel henchmen in Nuevo Laredo's red-light district with a heroin addict as a guide. Hanging out for an afternoon with a hitman in Medellin. That's about as close to Mexico's brutal drug trade as a journalist can go without getting whacked.

Ioan Grillo's El Narco is a frighteningly up-close look at the drug conflict in Mexico that reminds us that reality sometimes is more outlandish than fiction.

Grillo has spent a decade working as a journalist in Mexico and following the Sinaloa, Gulf and Zeta cartels as well as government officials struggling unsuccessfully to rein them in. That experience shows up in this book, which he wrote in a colorful narrative that gives you the feeling you're out there reporting with him.

Grillo takes you through a detailed and well documented history of drug trade in Mexico, from opium dens run by Chinese immigrants in the 19th century and up to the cartel turf wars and government crackdown that all together have led to tens of thousands of violent deaths. Through anecdotes and interviews with police, thugs and presidents Grillo provides a blow-by-blow explanation of what led to the explosion of decapitations, massacres and gun battles that in recent years have made Juarez -- a stone's throw from Texas -- the most dangerous city in the world.

Grillo is rightly critical of the often bumbling and contradictory Mexican and U.S. government policies that have failed to stop the drug cartels. He has seen more of the conflict perhaps than any other reporter and probably more than most DEA agents, who would do well to interview him when they get the chance - or at least read his book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the last five years or so, the horrific violence across the Rio Grange has made headlines in the USA. There are articles about seemingly random gun battles in major cities, executions of drug "players," police, and even journalists covering the story. The book "El Narco" provides historical context and gripping reporting about this terrible situation.

The reader learns that the "Mexican drug trade" for the US started with the smuggling of opium across the border to fuel the needs of Chinese workers in the 19th century. In the 1960s, the rise in marijuana consumption led to importation of this drug. The sucessful Federal (US) efforts to shut down Florida as a route for Cocaine smuggling in the 1980s led to use of Mexico, with its large border, as the alternative pathway.

The book also explains how and why the violence has escalated so dramatically in the last few years, stemming in part from the end of one party political rule, and perhaps more importantly, the morphing of police/soldiers in Mexico from passive players (taking bribes) to active players, culminating in the rise of the Zetas, an almost unbelievably brutal drug organization.

Like any good reporter, the author provides telling details. A graphic example involves the take down of a major drug kingpin in an operation which resulted in fatalities amongst the soldiers/police who did the job. Gunmen from the kingpin's organization infiltrated the funeral of one of the soldiers, and murdered several family members. That is the way the game is played South of the Border.

My one (minor) criticism concerns the final chapter, in which the author provides suggested approaches which might help stem the violent tide. These ideas ( e.g.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There is no doubt that Grillo has done his homework and knows a fair amount about the Mexican drug trade. His writing seems supported by an expertise and detailed research. Unfortunately, the book came up a little short of my expectations.

The Good Points:

* A very detailed look at the Mexican drug cartels, with sufficient detail to make it seem believable and well researched.

* Unusual for the "true crime" genre, Grillo looks at Mexican society and how it has both affected and been affected by the drug trade. Close-knit families, geography, and even religion all have had an affect on how the cartels grow and prosper. Very nice to see these topics included.

* With its discounted price, the book is a great deal. I am a big fan of discounted titles as a way to read books on topics that normally wouldn't catch my interest. For the price, an excellent valuc.

The Not-So-Good Points

* The book is more like a collection of essays than a history book. I didn't find any underlying thesis to the work, just a series of chapters on different topics. Given Grillo's background, the comparison to a series of (detailed) magazine articles seems obvious. (Think Atlantic Monthly).

* Grill can't seem to decide if he is writing a history text of a series of editorials. His opinions come through very strongly, and he is prone to inserting snarky and rather informal personal commentary in the work. It takes away from the quality of the book, and quite honestly breaks my concentration.

* I found his writing style to be somewhat stiff and unyielding. Not the long, complicated prose of a scholarly history text, but not the easy-read language of a mass-market volume.
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