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Guy Who Wrote The Book On Drug Cartels Describes His ‘Close Calls’ In Mexico

REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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Renowned British journalist Ioan Grillo whose work tends to focus on Mexican cartels has just published his latest book on transnational criminal networks across Latin America and discusses the worsening situation south of the border. His latest book is called Gangster Warlords.

Grillo has reported on Mexican cartel crime since 2001 and came to international prominence with the publication of his first book El Narco. In his first book, Grillo looks back at the history and growth of cartels in Mexico.

In a Thursday interview with OC Weekly, Grillo discusses his career as a journalist focused on cartel activities. Among his many anecdotes, Grillo reveals that he was almost assaulted at a gas station were it not for police contacts.

According to Grillo, “I was in Coahuila with a very experienced Mexican journalist and we had a car following us. We pulled into a Pemex station and the car screeched to a halt, these very dodgy, crazy guys got out and so he calls his contacts in the local state police and said come and get us out of here.”

In Grillo’s opinion, in recent years it has become far more dangerous to be a journalist in Mexico. Grillo told OC Weekly that, “in 2004 and 2005, I’d fly to Monterrey airport, rent a car, drive around by myself in these towns and it wasn’t a big deal back then. I still go to these areas, most media do not go to these places. You can’t drive around by yourself, you’ve got to coordinate very carefully with local people and have good contacts with local police to do these things now. There is a lot of risk covering violence in Latin America. It is a complicated hostile environment to navigate through because the threat is not as open as in many regular
war zones.”

According to Grillo, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera — who is the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel and was interviewed by Sean Penn for Rolling Stone magazine — is not as central a figure as he is depicted to be by the media. Regarding the future of the Sinaloa Cartel, Grillo told OC Weekly that, “The cartel will keep operating with or without Chapo. There are loads of other powerful traffickers, the capitalists inside the system, big money holders who can go to Colombia, buy 20 tons of cocaine and bring it here.”

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