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'An investigative magnum opus'—LA Times, Dissent!, and Uprising Radio on Narcoland

Marianna Reis 4 October 2013

In today's LA Times review of Narcoland, Jason McGahan praises author Anabel Hernández for her "empirically devastating" and unparalleled investigation of violence and corruption in Mexico from the drug cartels all the way up to the highest echelons of the Mexican government:

No single recent work on the subject peers more deeply than Anabel Hernández's "Narcoland," an investigative magnum opus by a Mexican journalist driven by purpose verging on despair. 

... Like a rogue detective in a noir mystery, she picks up on leads that were ignored, dusts off witness statements that implicated the police, army and political elite, and attempts to reconstruct the scenes of the crime on her own.

No book in print on the current situation in Mexico collates so many lost documents of abortive investigations or broadcasts so many whispers of insiders before they disappeared into witness protection, were assassinated, or walked away scot-free. 

Picking up on the significance of Narcoland's indictment of cartel leaders and goverment officials alike, Tim Barker of Dissent! asked Hernández in a recent interview what she had hoped the impact of her work would be on Mexican society and beyond.  Hernández responded:

The system in Mexico will not change by itself. Each part of that system is involved in the corruption, so everyone protects everyone else. I really believe that the only way that things can change is the movement of society. Society has to push the government to be a government. Society has to push the parties to work for society and not for themselves. That is the only option. The international community has to support that kind of organization.

Hernández also acknowledged that Mexicans are more aware of the truth and extent of the corruption since she began reporting on it.  And now that Narcoland has been published in English, she hopes that readers in the US will be more critical of their own actions and the actions of the US government.  Aside from revealing links between the US government and the Mexican drug trade, which she also details in her recent Uprising Radio interview, she appeals to those who are ignorant to their complicity in the violence:

The problem I talk about in Narcoland is not a Mexican problem, it’s a problem for the whole world. When any country opens the door to illegal drugs from Mexico, they open the door to the cartels, and they come inside. I don’t know why other countries don’t understand this. When you have drugs on the corner, you have these guys there too, and they are very dangerous. They are criminals, and they don’t just control drugs, they also control prostitution, child pornography, piracy, and many terrible criminal activities. I have heard many times, “It’s my body, it’s my life, it’s my problem.” But it can also be the body of your son, if he is kidnapped. It can be the problem of your sister, if she is trafficked. It’s everybody’s problem.

Luckily, McGahan concludes that Narcoland's no holds barred exposé is bound to leave an impression on readers everywhere:

Hernández is a pitiless dissector of the received truths of official Mexico. She holds so little back in establishing her claims that what the reader is left feeling is more akin to a changed worldview than a history lesson. 

Visit the LA Times to read the review in full.  

Visit Dissent! to read the interview in full.

Visit Uprising Radio to hear the two-part interview: Part 1 and Part 2.

Filed under: latin-america