Thu, Sep 05, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Mexico’s drug war ‘one big lie’

Anabel Hernandez, journalist and author, accuses the Mexican state of complicity with the cartels and says the ‘war on drugs’ is a sham. She has had headless animals left at her door and her family have been threatened by gunmen

By Ed Vulliamy  /  The Observer, LONDON

What does Anabel Hernandez feel about her less prominent colleagues on local papers, often compromised and threatened by cartels?

It is a problem, she says, that “our reporters are not united in the face of these threats and murders,” and she intends to “form a federation of solidarity, to build a group, a community, to make us stronger against the cartels and authorities.”

“Many of these murders of my colleagues have been hidden away, surrounded by silence — they received a threat, and told no one; no one knew what was happening,” she says. “We have to make these threats public. We have to challenge the authorities to protect our press by making every threat public — so they have no excuse.”

The timing of this English edition of the book is fortuitous, feeding into the current news like a hand into a glove. The release last month of the cartel boss Caro Quintero by a Mexican federal court made headlines across the world: Quintero had been convicted of a part in the torture to death of US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. It is a murder that, in Hernandez’s account, throws light on both Mexican government and CIA complicity in drug trafficking, a narrative that exposes a deep root of the present drug war.

The court released Quintero on a legal technicality, but Hernandez says now: “Mexico’s government did nothing to prevent his release. On the contrary, they contributed cover for the release. The one thing nobody wants is Quintero talking about the roles of the Institutional Revolutionary Party [returned to power, and in government during Camarena’s murder] and the CIA in the origins of Chapo Guzman’s cartel.”

Another major item of news was the capture in July of the Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, and the killing last year of the man he replaced, Heriberto Lazcano. These successes for the Mexican military speak to Hernandez’s theme: It has long been speculated that any Mexican government’s best chance for peace is to return to the so-called “pax mafiosa,” a conviviality with — a blind eye toward — the biggest cartel, Guzman’s, whereby the drugs keep flowing in exchange for a cessation of violence, while the official “war on drugs” is fought against his opponents. Of these, the Zetas are by far the most formidable.

“Sadly, I think this is what is happening,” Hernandez says. “Mexico is exhausted. People will pay anything to live in peace. And this is the strategy: a sponsorship of the Sinaloa cartel, which makes the so-called ‘war on drugs’ one big lie.”

Senores del Narco is not flattered by its English translation, which is sometimes colloquial to the point of inelegance (agent Camarena is described as “a goner,” and the mysterious killing of a compromised government official, Edgar Millan, is “a shocker”). That is a shame, given the importance of the book and the availability of excellent translators from Spanish. The English edition is, furthermore, regrettably tardy (though hats off to Verso for publishing it), illustrating the Anglophone world’s baffling detachment from the death toll of the drug-taking to which it feels entitled.

Anabel Hernandez is “very pleased my book is being published in English, so it can be read in London and New York where drugs are being sold and taken on every corner, and people can know where every gram of cocaine comes from — corruption and death. I want it published in Britain and America, where the profits are laundered. In your country [the UK], where HSBC took Chapo Guzman’s money to ‘look after it,’ and then said they didn’t know where it came from. I have studied the laundering networks in depth, and I cannot believe them.”

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