There are things in the world more appalling than the violence visited upon Mexico by drug cartels, but not many.
For a while, we in Fresh Air have had an eye out for just the right guest to talk about the carnage. We invited journalist Ioan Grillo, and he’s my guest on today’s show.
He has a new book called El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency.
Grillo is the real deal – a British journalist who lives in Mexico City and has been covering the narco wars for ten years now. He’s interviewed criminals, government officials, DEA agents, and victims of the violence. He’s worked with veteran Mexican journalists, and has often arrived at ghastly crime scenes before the police (except corrupt cops that may have been involved with the killing).
His descriptions and insights are sobering. He notes for example that the drug wars stem in part from the democratization of Mexico, which flowered in 2000 when the PRI party that had ruled the country for 71 years was finally defeated in a presidential election.
That upset a relatively stable order in which there was plenty of drug trafficking and corruption, but nothing like the violence we’ve seen since.
Grillo comes at the issue with an open mind and a reporter’s gift for getting hard information and human stories. So when he writes about what might curb the carnage, he doesn’t offer simple solutions.
I wish we had more time in the interview to talk about some of the steps he thinks would make a difference. But you should listen to show, and read the book.
You can hear the show at 3 and 7 on WHYY. If you’re listening outside the Philly area, find a station here. And of course you can always listen online, download a podcast, or get more information at the Fresh Air website.