My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The book is in Spanish.
Writing about narco Mexico presents many challenges— but the most important is the difficulty of “establishing the truth” and “fixing details” to many incidents and events that by definition are “unknowable”.
Ricardo Raphael sets about to tell us the true story in a novel that presents true facts that are unravelled by means of fiction and creative imagination. The result is a wonderful and factual overview of narco Mexico— specifically the narco Mexico relating to the rise of Los Zetas within the Gulf Cartel. Among the several cartels in Mexico, the Gulf cartel came late into the game and rose to prominence when the DEA and American Drug wars pushed the Colombian cartels from the Caribbean and into Eastern Mexico. In the late 1990’s, routes through Mexico opened up as Mexico became a trampoline for exporting opium into the United States.
Internal fractions within the burgeoning Gulf Cartel led the Cárdenas Guillén brothers to recruit highly trained Mexican army deserters as their “bodyguards” and henchmen. Twenty Mexican military officers who trained in extreme military aggression at Fort Hood Texas were recruited by Osiel Cárdenas Guillen. All were originally assigned to a specialized Mexican military unit known as GAFE. (essentially, an equivalent to Green Beret special forces).
Those basic facts are true and are described accurately in this book— that is, army deserters were hired as enforcers for the Gulf Cartel. And the brutality of Los Zetas and their bloody role in establishing new routes is also true and described within this novel.
The author Ricardo Raphael reviews those actual events by making them part of a story within a story. The overall narrative of the book is built around the discoveries made by a journalist who makes weekly visits to a prisoner who has claimed to be one of the original deserters. That prisoner claims to be Galdino Mellado Cruz aka Zeta 9— who was reportedly killed in a military takedown. The journalists's visits to this self-proclaimed Galdino provide him with apparently compelling evidence that the prisoner is truly an original Zeta. The weekly visits details about the formation of los Zetas, their training in extreme survival and terror practices, and about many of the major criminal events that were described and reported in the Mexican press.
But, inconsistencies in Galdino’s biography raise doubts in the journalists mind about whether Galindo is a serial liar or is actually a high level narco.
In the end, the journalist and the reader are left with a horrific understanding about the impact narco-violence and narco-culture, but at the same left with questions about how such things came to be.
It really is a terrific read that will hopefully be translated into English.
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