Touch of Evil
Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency
by Ioan Grillo
$27.00 List Price
For much of the past century or so, Mexico has existed out of context.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ran the country for seven decades, enforced a powerful state of critical amnesia. Newspapers reported news with no background to the story at all. The lives of the powerful weren’t discussed, unless they fell from official favor.
Lately, however, that’s all been changing. Critical biographies of the country’s leaders are published, and read, in a way that was unthinkable as recently as the mid-1990s. Newspaper columnists—Raymundo Riva Palacio, Sergio Sarmiento, Luis Rubio—are essential reading for both the stories that they report and the context they bring to the day’s news.
But until recently, one topic escaped this perestroika-style public scrutiny—the country’s lucrative, violent drug trade.
For years the country’s burgeoning cross-border traffic in illegal drugs existed as background noise. Elements of the PRI had facilitated it, police officers were easily bought off, merchants of cars and clothes welcomed hillbillies suddenly flush with cash—and occasionally a guy from the state of Sinaloa would end up dead in the trunk of a car.
The dope trade, moreover, fulfilled the worst stereotypes that the United States and Mexico held of each other. Mexicans felt the traficantes killed one another and sold their dope to the gringos, so why worry? Americans felt that Mexico was incorrigibly corrupt, so what could you do?
But the past seven years have witnessed Mexico’s descent into ever-deeper levels of hell. Hillbilly thugs have