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Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers

"An investigative magnum opus." – Los Angeles Times
The product of five years' investigativ ereporting, the subject of intense national controversy, and the source of death threats that forced the National Human Rights Commission to assign two full-time bodyguards to its author, Anabel Hernández, Narcoland has been a publishing and political sensation in Mexico.

The definitive history of the drug cartels, Narcoland takes readers to the front lines of the "war on drugs," which has so far cost more than 60,000 lives in just six years. Hernández explains in riveting detail how Mexico became a base for the mega-cartels of Latin America and one of the most violent places on the planet. At every turn, Hernández names names--not just the narcos, but also the politicians, functionaries, judges and entrepreneurs who have collaborated with them. In doing so, she reveals the mind-boggling depth of corruption in Mexico's government and business elite.

Hernández became a journalist after her father was kidnapped and killed and the politce refused to investigate without a bribe. She gained national prominence in 2001 with her exposure of excess and misconduct at the presidential palace, and previous books have focused on criminality at the summit of power, under presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón. 

In awarding Hernández the 2012 Golden Pen of Freedom, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers noted, "Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, with violence and impunity remaining major challenges in terms of press freedom. In making this award, we recognize the strong stance Ms. Hernández has taken, at great personal risk, against drug cartels."

Reviews

  • Narcoland describes a disastrous 'war on drugs' that has led to more than 80,000 deaths in half a dozen years. This is a book that exposes how everything in Mexico is implicated in the 'narco system.'”
  • “Anabel Hernández, journalist and author, accuses the Mexican state of complicity with the cartels, and says the 'war on drugs' is a sham. She's had headless animals left at her door and her family have been threatened by gunmen.... Narcoland became, and remains, a bestseller: more than 100,000 copies sold in Mexico. The success is impossible to overstate, a staggering figure for a non-fiction book in a country with indices of income and literacy incomparable to the American-European book-buying market.”
  • “The most remarkable feature of Anabel Hernández's brave and invaluable account of Mexico’s blood-drenched drug wars is that she survived long enough to write it... We would all be poorer without Hernández's determination to account for a civil conflict that has cost at least 60,000 lives. There could be no greater shame for Mexico should such a fearless and dedicated reporter come to any harm”
  • “An ambitious and daring sketch of the political nexus that ensures the Mexican system of narcotics delivery to the U.S.”
  • Narcoland, with its explosive descriptions of decades of corruption permeating the upper echelons of government, leaves an extremely bad taste in the reader’s mouth about the state of Mexico’s perennially corrupt institutions – and begs the question: how much has changed? For Narcoland, Anabel Hernandez spent five years combing police, court and US papers, securing access to informers and sources and pursuing often fruitless requests for official files. The result is a searing indictment of a war on drugs she believes was a sham from the start.”
  • “Hernández's investigation into corruption ... traces the collusion of government, law enforcement, and military figures with the narcos back at least to the 1970s ... Her book has sold over 170,000 copies in Mexico and she now lives protected by bodyguards.”
  • “Anabel Hernández exposes the most murderous drug organization in Mexico, the Mexican government. Of course, this level of corruption is only possible thanks to the moral and financial support of the leaders in Washington. Here's the story the media never has the time to tell you.”
  • “An in-depth, unforgiving look at the deep-rooted corruption that has allowed the cartels to flourish... [A] thought-provoking portrait of the crime and corruption that dominates our southerly neighbor.”
  • “Rigorous, disturbing narrative of how drug cartels infiltrated Mexican society’s highest levels ... Hernández writes clearly, savoring the details and ironies of her investigation, with a tone of righteous polemical outrage ... Essential reading for a serious understanding of how the war on drugs is destroying the social fabric of South American nations.”
  • “While the benefits of the war on drugs are hard to measure, the negative impacts are more obvious. Anabel Hernández has both investigated and documented the corrosive effect of the illegal trade in Mexico, where violence related to the drugs industry has killed tens of thousands. She describes how small-time drugs producers and smugglers in the 1970s managed to become some of the richest people on earth, buying off policemen, military officers, senior civil servants and national-level politicians… While many Mexican politicians and officials merely pretend to fight the drugs producers, Anabel Hernández has taken a genuine stand in favour of the rule of law and decency in her society. [Narcoland] is in itself an important statement. She deserves our respect and admiration for making it.”
  • “The stark truth of a sham 'war'... A product of five years’ investigative reporting, Hernández’s meticulously researched explanation of the links between the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s biggest criminal organisation, and Mexico’s leadership makes for jaw-dropping reading.”
  • “How can Mexico live without drug money? - Anabel Hernández in discussion with Ed Vulliamy at the Frontline Club”
  • “Every page offers a well-documented argument for how a certain political and economic reality came into being. Examining how power has been deployed across that network in order to create a drug war that is anything but is a daunting task, but Hernández accomplishes it here, laying solid groundwork for future scholarship in cartel history.”

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  • Reading is a Feminist Issue: Radical Women for your Bookshelf


    Although women reportedly read more than men, women writers are much less reviewed – and when they actually are, they are too often marginalized into chick-lit sections. Throughout the intellectual world, authors, publishers and journalists are taking small steps against the blatant imbalance in how male and female writers and reviewers are treated. One inspiring example that might go viral on the social networks is the #readwomen2014

    As a Guardian article suggests, the project started as “listing 250-odd names from Angela Carter to Zadie Smith and encouraging recipients to ‘if not vow to read women exclusively, look up some of the writers I've drawn on the front or listed on the back’.”

    Committing to reading more women authors is, in itself, a strong political stance. However, if one wants to address the deeper sociohistorical roots of the problem – namely, patriarchy –ingenuous bemusement at sexist reading habits is clearly insufficient.

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  • Anabel Hernández's House Raided by Armed Gunmen

    The Knight Center reports that on December 21, 2013, a group of armed men stormed the home of Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández, author of this fall's Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers:

    On Dec. 21, about a dozen individuals armed with AK-47 rifles and handguns shut off the street where Hernández lives, entering a number of other residences to ask for the journalist’s home. They de-activated the security cameras in the neighborhood, including those that were installed in Hernández’s house.

    Hernández was not at home when the incident occurred.

    The individuals, who at first identified themselves as agents of the Federal Police, and then as “Zetas,” briefly detained and punched one of the bodyguards assigned by Mexico City authorities to protect Hernández, who was in the journalist’s house at the time of the incident.

    The reasons for the home invasion are unclear. The armed group was in the neighborhood for approximately a half hour; however, authorities did not respond to the incident.

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