How can Mexico live without drug money?
From over five years of interviews with members of the main cartels in Mexico, ex-policemen, army generals and officials in the government, journalist Anabel Hernández‘s book Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their God Fathers investigates the corruption and compliancy of the official governmental system and the drug cartels in her home country of Mexico. Selling over 200,000 copies since it was originally published in 2010, it is still the best selling book in its category in Mexico.
“Mexicans want answers and I think this book gives them…the people really want to understand. The official version doesn’t fit with reality, it’s very obvious in Mexico,” Hernández said in conversation with journalist and author Ed Vulliamy, at the Frontline Club on 11th September 2013. “Nobody is in jail, the government of course protect them, but now in Mexico everybody knows who is who and that’s the most important thing.”
The book has now been translated from Spanish into English for a completely new audience – an audience that Hernández says has as much to do with the drug economy in Mexico as drug lords such as Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and Miguel Treviño Morales.
But how can this new audience begin to understand how Mexico came into its current position? Hernández explained:
“In the sixties the federal government protected all the cartels, they let them do their business [in exchange] for money; it’s always about money. . . . At that moment the money that came from the medium crime organisations was used to build schools”
“In the 1980s and 1990s the Guadalajara Cartel came to dominate the city. [They] started to be the conduit to traffic the cocaine from Columbia to the USA. So that money made the medium crime organisations more powerful [and] that’s when the Guadalajara Cartel was created…Félix Gallardo, Rafael Caro Quintero [of the Guadalajara Cartel], started to change their game… They became free,”
“A law unto themselves,” Vulliamy added.
The Mexican economy grew existentially during this time Hernández says:
“That money was useful. For example in the 1980s Félix Gallardo created many enterprises in Guadalajara. Guadalajara was this size [very small] in the 1980s but with the money of the Guadalajara Cartel the city started to grow and grow and grow. He built hotels, restaurants he create car dealerships.”
“That’s why in the 90s when he is put in jail…the government put him in jail but they government never confiscated his money because his money was moving the economy.”
“This has happened many times – now how can Mexico live without that money? That is the question.”
Vulliamy asked Hernández how the meaning of the book changed with the new English translation. What about “the responsibility of everybody who sells a gram of cocaine, takes a gram of cocaine, where does this stop?… Who are the criminals?”
“There are many guys [in Mexico], we can find their faces in the pages of the FBI or Interpol…”
“There are very many other important businessmen in the world that are drug lords too. . . . They like to look like legal people, but I think they are worse that Chapo Guzmán, because if you see Chapo Guzmán in the street, you can see he is coming – maybe you’ll walk away. . . . Who is worse? The Chapo Guzmán or the people who pretend to be in the legal world but launder their money and buy the guns?”
“When I really talk with the drug cartels… and their lawyers, one lawyer told me ‘stop thinking of the violence, stop thinking in the murders, this is just a business . . . like Coca-Cola or Pepsi. If a market exists we want it.”
“Dirty money moves the economy . . . my country is very poor, but still having a fake economy, with money of the drug cartels [is preferable], the price that we have to pay is very high.”