Sunday, 6 May 2012

Recent Books about Mexico and Cartels — 3 recommendations and 1 to avoid

It's been hard to find good general books in English that deal with the drug wars and the violence in Mexico. But, there are now a few on the market and that are worth reading. Malcolm Beith's book is highly recommended. With a few exceptions, it's an accurate representation of what has been happening in Mexico over the past few years. There are a few cases where Beith chooses to describe one version of events and overlook other interpretations which are radically different — but for the most part anyone who reads this book will come away with a wealth of knowledge about the narco wars. There is also a Spanish language version of it. The link to Beith's book is for the US edition. There are also European and International versions.
Ioan Grillo's book is also worth picking up. It jumps around a little more than Beith's, but it also covers a great deal of material. Most of the information here is taken from Grillo's numerous reports from the front lines of Mexico. There are also several editions available online, and international buyers should check their regional booksellers and amazon sites.
Howard Campbell's book is a little bit different than Beiths and Grillo's. He focuses on Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. But, the focus allows a more in depth focus on the wide range of people who are caught up in the drug trade — the smugglers, the street dealers, the pushers, the border guards, the local law enforcement agents (Sheriff), and the Federal Agents. It is an ethnographic and biographical account of life in the Drug War Zone. But Campbell also presents an accurate and important picture of how drugs move across the line into the US. He argues that it's important to understand all of the actors in any plaza, and how their interactions have created a drug war zone. This book is of particular interest to anyone who lives in the Borderlands and those who want to understand life in the shared territory where Mexico and the USA meet.
Wiley just published another book that purports to look at the cartels. This book is full of errors and the author is clearly out of his depth in describing the events in Mexico. Even though it is supposedly about Mexico's Cartels, he doesn't even attempt to describe them until ¼ of the way into the book and his first few statements about them are wrong. He has misidentified key players and personalities, and has made too many mistakes for this book to be taken seriously. Avoid it.

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