Review – El Narco by Ioan Grillo

As it happened, my finishing reading this book coincided with the unfortunate deaths of a couple of young Australian surfers, seemingly at the hands of persons associated with the Mexican drug cartels. This has certainly helped to bring into the spotlight the true dangers and tragedy of what has been transpiring in Mexico, the United States and other countries in southern and central America.

El Narco is at its heart, the story of the drug trade which predominantly occurs from Mexico to the United States, however deals with events in Colombia and other countries. As much it is the story of those who are directly involved in the trade, it is also the story of the users, dealers, legislators, and members of the public who are affected – directly or indirectly – by the war on drugs.

The author speaks with a great deal of authority, having conducted numerous interviews with traffickers, and others. He is also not afraid to deal with some of the hard issues which surround the drug problem – centrally, that while there is a demand for the drug, trying to squash the supply problem is never going to fix the issue.

This is a heartbreaking story of how drug crime has swept up so many people and families – even those not involved in the trade – through addiction, poverty and revenge killings.

A sensitive, considered and well-researched treatment of a delicate and emotive subject. El Narco is an insight into a world about which most of us have very little understanding.

4.5/5 stars.

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