In the 1980s a poor farmer's son from Recife, Brazil, joined the Brazilian navy and began selling cocaine. After his arrest in Rio de Janeiro he spent the next eight years in prison, where he joined the Comando Vermelho criminal faction and eventually became one of its leaders. Robert Gay tells this young man's dramatic and captivating story in Bruno. In his shockingly candid interviews with Gay, Bruno provides many insights into the criminal world in which he lived: details of day-to-day prison life; the inner workings of the Brazilian drug trade; the structure of criminal factions; and the complexities of the relationships and links between the prisons, drug trade, gangs, police, and favelas. And most stunningly, Bruno's story suggests that Brazilian mismanagement of the prison system directly led to the Comando Vermelho and other criminal factions' expansion into Rio's favelas, where their turf wars and battles with police have terrorized the city for over two decades.
Drug Smugglers on Drug Smuggling features interviews with 34 convicted drug smugglers -- most of them once major operators -- detailing exactly how drugs are smuggled into the U.S. from Latin America. These sources provide tangible evidence of the risks, rewards, and organization of international drug smuggling.
Quoting frequently from their interviews, Decker and Chapman explain how individuals are recruited into smuggling, why they stay in it, and how their roles change over time. They describe the specific strategies their interviewees employed to bring drugs into the country and how they previously escaped apprehension. Over-all, the authors find that drug smuggling is organized in a series of networks which are usually unconnected.
This extraordinarily informative book will be of particular interest to law enforcement officials and policymakers, but it will appeal to anyone who wants to know how the drug business actually works.
This is a stellar, courageous work of investigative journalism and historical scholarship—grippingly told, meticulously documented, and doggedly pursued over thirty years. Tracking a Cold War confrontation that has compromised the national interests of both Mexico and the United States, Eclipse of the Assassins exposes deadly connections among historical events usually remembered as isolated episodes.
Authors Russell and Sylvia Bartley shed new light on the U.S.-instigated “dirty wars” that ravaged all of Latin America in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s and reveal—for the first time—how Mexican officials colluded with Washington in its proxy contra war against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. They draw together the strands of a clandestine web linking:
the assassination of prominent Mexican journalist Manuel Buendía
the torture and murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena
the Iran-Contra scandal
a major DEA sting against key CIA-linked Bolivian, Panamanian, and Mexican drug traffickers
CIA-orchestrated suppression of investigative journalists
criminal collusion of successive U.S. and Mexican administrations that has resulted in the unprecedented power of drug kingpins like “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Eclipse of the Assassins places a major political crime—the murder of Buendía—in its full historical perspective and shows how the dirty wars of the past are still claiming victims today.
Best books for public & secondary school libraries from university presses, American Library Association
The Diamonds are a Chicago Street gang whose members are second-generation Puerto Rican youths. For Felix Padilla the young men who join the Diamonds have made a logical choice. The gang is an alternative and dependable route to emotional support, self-respect, material goods, and upward mobility. Although Padilla shares the same ethnic background as the gang members and also grew up in a Chicago barrio, gaining the trust of the Diamonds was not easy. But eventually he was able to get close enough to the members to interview and observe them.
Padilla shows us the process behind the decision to join the Diamonds. From early childhood, boys develop positive images of the gang. They realize that the dominant culture promises mobility, but that their paths to that mobility are blocked. By joining a gang they can creatively oppose the dominant culture.
Padilla does not paint a romanticized picture of the Diamonds. Some members come to understand that when they sell drugs, they benefit the gang's leaders and suppliers more than themselves. Further, they recognize that the gang is also subject to problems of domination and inequality. Padilla shows that though the Diamonds are sometimes violent, they are not psychopaths. While we need not approve of what they do, Padilla urges us to understand it as a rational response to the doors these young men see closed around them.
The convergence of tough-on-crime politics, stiffer sentencing laws, and jurisdictional expansion in the 1970s and 1980s increased the powers of federal prosecutors in unprecedented ways. In Hard Bargains, social psychologist Mona Lynch investigates the increased power of these prosecutors in our age of mass incarceration. Lynch documents how prosecutors use punitive federal drug laws to coerce guilty pleas and obtain long prison sentences for defendants—particularly those who are African American— and exposes deep injustices in the federal courts.
As a result of the War on Drugs, the number of drug cases prosecuted each year in federal courts has increased fivefold since 1980. Lynch goes behind the scenes in three federal court districts and finds that federal prosecutors have considerable discretion in adjudicating these cases. Federal drug laws are wielded differently in each district, but with such force to overwhelm defendants’ ability to assert their rights. For drug defendants with prior convictions, the stakes are even higher since prosecutors can file charges that incur lengthy prison sentences—including life in prison without parole. Through extensive field research, Lynch finds that prosecutors frequently use the threat of extremely severe sentences to compel defendants to plead guilty rather than go to trial and risk much harsher punishment. Lynch also shows that the highly discretionary ways in which federal prosecutors work with law enforcement have led to significant racial disparities in federal courts. For instance, most federal charges for crack cocaine offenses are brought against African Americans even though whites are more likely to use crack. In addition, Latinos are increasingly entering the federal system as a result of aggressive immigration crackdowns that also target illicit drugs.
Hard Bargains provides an incisive and revealing look at how legal reforms over the last five decades have shifted excessive authority to federal prosecutors, resulting in the erosion of defendants’ rights and extreme sentences for those convicted. Lynch proposes a broad overhaul of the federal criminal justice system to restore the balance of power and retreat from the punitive indulgences of the War on Drugs.
A revealing inquiry into how global culture is lived locally.
Every summer for almost forty years, tens of thousands of Moroccan emigrants from as far away as Norway and Germany have descended on the duty-free smugglers' cove/migrant frontier boomtown of Nador, Morocco. David McMurray investigates the local effects of the multiple linkages between Nador and international commodity circuits, and analyzes the profound effect on everyday life of the free flow of bodies, ideas, and commodities into and out of the region.
Combining immigration and population statistics with street-level ethnography, In and Out of Morocco covers a wide range of topics, including the origin and nature of immigrant nostalgia, the historical evolution of the music of migration in the region, and the influence of migrant wealth on social distinctions in Nador. Groundbreaking in its attention to the performative aspects of life in a smuggling border zone, the book also analyzes the way in which both migration and smuggling have affected local structures of feeling by contributing to the spread of hyperconsumption. The result is a rare and revealing inquiry into how the global culture is lived locally.
David A. McMurray is assistant professor of anthropology at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
The South American nation of Colombia has seen more than forty years of unrest, conflict, and civil war. It is a country in which social violence and warfare are intricately intertwined. Colombia is also notorious for its drug trade, being one of the leading producers of cocaine in the world, and for its central role as a staging ground for the U.S. “war on drugs.” Since 9/11 the Bush administration has sought to draw political links between the Colombian drug trade, guerrilla organizations, and terrorism.
Inside Colombia offers a valuable introduction and quick reference guide to this complex nation. With chapters devoted to history, human rights issues, the economy, drugs, the controversial antidrug intervention known as Plan Colombia, and relations with the United States, the book offers an easily accessible and comprehensive overview. Readers will learn about the major players in the conflicts, significant political figures, how Colombia’s economy has fared in the twentieth century, how the country’s geography influences its politics and economy, and how U.S. intervention shapes Colombia’s political scene.
For all of Brazil's efforts to reduce poverty-and its progress-the favelas in Rio de Janeiro still house one-third of the city's poor, and violence permeates every aspect of the city. As urban drug gangs and police wage war in the streets, favela residents who are especially vulnerable live in fear of being caught in the crossfire. Politicians, human rights activists, and security authorities have been working to minimize the social and economic problems at the root of this "war."
Living in the Crossfire presents impassioned testimony from officials, residents, and others in response to the ongoing crisis. Maria Helena Moreira Alves and Philip Evanson provide vivid accounts from grieving mothers and members of the police working to stop the war and, among officials, from Brazil's President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who discusses his efforts to improve public security.
The residents of Caxambu, a squatter neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, live in a state of insecurity as they face urban violence. Living with Insecurity in a Brazilian Favela examines how inequality, racism, drug trafficking, police brutality, and gang activities affect the daily lives of the people of Caxambu. Some Brazilians see these communities, known as favelas, as centers of drug trafficking that exist beyond the control of the state and threaten the rest of the city. For other Brazilians, favelas are symbols of economic inequality and racial exclusion. Ben Penglase’s ethnography goes beyond these perspectives to look at how the people of Caxambu themselves experience violence.
Although the favela is often seen as a war zone, the residents are linked to each other through bonds of kinship and friendship. In addition, residents often take pride in homes and public spaces that they have built and used over generations. Penglase notes that despite poverty, their lives are not completely defined by illegal violence or deprivation. He argues that urban violence and a larger context of inequality create a social world that is deeply contradictory and ambivalent. The unpredictability and instability of daily experiences result in disagreements and tensions, but the residents also experience their neighborhood as a place of social intimacy. As a result, the social world of the neighborhood is both a place of danger and safety.
Favelas, or shantytowns, are where cocaine is mainly sold in Rio de Janeiro. There are some six hundred favelas in the city, and most of them are controlled by well-organized and heavily armed drug gangs. The struggle for the massive profits from this drug trade has resulted in what are increasingly violent and deadly confrontations between rival drug gangs and a corrupt and brutal police force, that have transformed parts of the city into a war-zone. Lucia tells the story of one woman who was once intimately involved with drug gang life in Rio throughout the 1990s. Through a series of conversations with the author, Lucia describes conditions of poverty, violence, and injustice that are simply unimaginable to outsiders. In doing so, she explains why women like her become involved with drugs and gangs, and why this situation is unlikely to change.
Despite the scope of the threat they pose to Mexico’s security, violent drug-trafficking organizations are not well understood, and optimal strategies to combat them have not been identified. While there is no perfectly analogous case from history, Mexico stands to benefit from historical lessons and efforts that were correlated with improvement in countries facing similar challenges related to violence and corruption.
Despite the scope of the threat they pose to Mexico’s security, violent drug-trafficking organizations are not well understood, and optimal strategies to combat them have not been identified. While there is no perfectly analogous case to Mexico’s current security situation, historical case studies may offer lessons for policymakers as they cope with challenges related to violence and corruption in that country.
Mexican drug networks are large and violent, engaging in activities like the trafficking of narcotics, money laundering, extortion, kidnapping, and mass murder. Despite the impact of these activities in Mexico and abroad, these illicit networks are remarkably resilient to state intervention.
Drawing on extensive fieldwork and interviews with US and Mexican law enforcement, government officials, organized crime victims, and criminals, Nathan P. Jones examines the comparative resilience of two basic types of drug networks—“territorial” and “transactional”—that are differentiated by their business strategies and provoke wildly different responses from the state. Transactional networks focus on trafficking and are more likely to collude with the state through corruption, while territorial networks that seek to control territory for the purpose of taxation, extortion, and their own security often trigger a strong backlash from the state.
Timely and authoritative, Mexico's Illicit Drug Networks and the State Reaction provides crucial insight into why Mexico targets some drug networks over others, reassesses the impact of the war on drugs, and proposes new solutions for weak states in their battles with drug networks.
My Cocaine Museum
Michael Taussig University of Chicago Press, 2004 Library of Congress F2269.1.S24T28 2004 | Dewey Decimal 986.153
In this book, a make-believe cocaine museum becomes a vantage point from which to assess the lives of Afro-Colombian gold miners drawn into the dangerous world of cocaine production in the rain forest of Colombia's Pacific Coast. Although modeled on the famous Gold Museum in Colombia's central bank, the Banco de la República, Taussig's museum is also a parody aimed at the museum's failure to acknowledge the African slaves who mined the country's wealth for almost four hundred years.
Combining natural history with political history in a filmic, montage style, Taussig deploys the show-and-tell modality of a museum to engage with the inner life of heat, rain, stone, and swamp, no less than with the life of gold and cocaine.
This effort to find a poetry of words becoming things is brought to a head by the explosive qualities of those sublime fetishes of evil beauty, gold and cocaine. At its core, Taussig's museum is about the lure of forbidden things, charged substances that transgress moral codes, the distinctions we use to make sense of the world, and above all the conventional way we write stories.
Narrating Narcos presents a probing examination of the prominent role of narcotics trafficking in contemporary Latin American cultural production. In her study, Gabriela Polit Dueñas juxtaposes two infamous narco regions, Culiacán, Mexico, and Medellín, Colombia, to demonstrate the powerful forces of violence, corruption, and avarice and their influence over locally based cultural texts.
Polit Dueñas provides a theoretical basis for her methods, citing the work of Walter Benjamin, Pierre Bourdieu, and other cultural analysts. She supplements this with extensive ethnographic fieldwork, interviewing artists and writers, their confidants, relatives, and others, and documents their responses to the portrayal of narco culture. Polit Dueñas offers close readings of the characters, language, and milieu of popular works of literature and the visual arts and relates their ethical and thematic undercurrents to real life experiences. In both regions, there are few individuals who have not been personally affected by the narcotics trade. Each region has witnessed corrupt state, police, and paramilitary actors in league with drug capos. Both have a legacy of murder.
Polit Dueñas documents how narco culture developed at different times historically in the two regions. In Mexico, drugs have been cultivated and trafficked for over a century, while in Colombia the cocaine trade is a relatively recent development. In Culiacán, characters in narco narratives are often modeled after the serrano (highlander), a romanticized historic figure and sometime thief who nobly defied a corrupt state and its laws. In Medellín, the oft-portrayed sicario (assassin) is a recent creation, an individual recruited by drug lords from poverty stricken shantytowns who would have little economic opportunity otherwise. As Polit Dueñas shows, each character occupies a different place in the psyche of the local populace.
Narrating Narcos offers a unique melding of archival and ground-level research combined with textual analysis. Here, the relationship of writer, subject, and audience becomes clearly evident, and our understanding of the cultural bonds of Latin American drug trafficking is greatly enhanced. As such, this book will be an important resource for students and scholars of Latin American literature, history, culture, and contemporary issues.
In 2005 Waverly Duck was called to a town he calls Bristol Hill to serve as an expert witness in the sentencing of drug dealer Jonathan Wilson. Convicted as an accessory to the murder of a federal witness and that of a fellow drug dealer, Jonathan faced the death penalty, and Duck was there to provide evidence that the environment in which Jonathan had grown up mitigated the seriousness of his alleged crimes. Duck’s exploration led him to Jonathan’s church, his elementary, middle, and high schools, the juvenile facility where he had previously been incarcerated, his family and friends, other drug dealers, and residents who knew him or knew of him. After extensive ethnographic observations, Duck found himself seriously troubled and uncertain: Are Jonathan and others like him a danger to society? Or is it the converse—is society a danger to them?
Duck’s short stay in Bristol Hill quickly transformed into a long-term study—one that forms the core of No Way Out. This landmark book challenges the common misconception of urban ghettoes as chaotic places where drug dealing, street crime, and random violence make daily life dangerous for their residents. Through close observations of daily life in these neighborhoods, Duck shows how the prevailing social order ensures that residents can go about their lives in relative safety, despite the risks that are embedded in living amid the drug trade. In a neighborhood plagued by failing schools, chronic unemployment, punitive law enforcement, and high rates of incarceration, residents are knit together by long-term ties of kinship and friendship, and they base their actions on a profound sense of community fairness and accountability. Duck presents powerful case studies of individuals whose difficulties flow not from their values, or a lack thereof, but rather from the multiple obstacles they encounter on a daily basis.
No Way Out explores how ordinary people make sense of their lives within severe constraints and how they choose among unrewarding prospects, rather than freely acting upon their own values. What emerges is an important and revelatory new perspective on the culture of the urban poor.
In recent years the Náyari (Cora) people of northwestern Mexico have experienced violence at the hands of drug producers and traffickers. Although a drug economy may seem potentially lucrative to such peasants, spreading violence tied to this trade threatens to destroy their community. This book argues that the source of the problem lies not solely in drug trafficking but also in the breakdown of traditional political authority.
By studying the history of religious practices that legitimate such authority, Philip Coyle shows that a contradiction exists between ceremonially based forms of political authority and the bureaucratic and military modes of power that have been deployed by outside governments in their attempts to administer the region. He then shows how the legitimacy of traditional authority is renewed or undermined through the performance of ceremonies.
Coyle explores linkages between long-term political and economic processes and changes in Náyari ceremonial life from Spanish contact to the present day. As a participant-observer of Náyari ceremonies over a ten-year period, he gained an understanding of the history of their ceremonialism and its connections to practically every other aspect of Náyari life. His descriptions of the Holy Week Festival, mitote ceremonies, and other public performances show how struggles over political legitimacy are intimately tied to the meanings of the ceremonies. With its rich ethnographic descriptions, provocative analyses, and clear links between data and theory, Coyle's study marks a major contribution to the ethnography of the Indians of western Mexico and Latin America more generally. It also provides unusual insight into the violence raging across the Mexican countryside and helps us understand the significance of indigenous people in a globalizing world.
In 2003, an FBI-led task force known as Operation Fly Trap attempted to dismantle a significant drug network in two Bloods-controlled, African American neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The operation would soon be considered an enormous success, noted for the precision with which the task force targeted and removed gang members otherwise entrenched in larger communities. In Operation Fly Trap, Susan A. Phillips questions both the success of this operation and the methods used to conduct it. Based on in-depth ethnographic research with Fly Trap participants, Phillips’s work brings together police narratives, crime statistics, gang cultural histories, and extensive public policy analysis to examine the relationship between state persecution and the genesis of violent social systems.
Crucial to Phillips’s contribution is the presentation of the voices and perspectives of both the people living in impoverished communities and the agents that police them. Phillips positions law enforcement surveillance and suppression as a critical point of contact between citizen and state. She tracks the bureaucratic workings of police and FBI agencies and the language, ideologies, and methods that prevail within them, and shows how gangs have adapted, seeking out new locations, learning to operate without hierarchies, and moving their activities more deeply underground. Additionally, she shows how the targeted efforts of task forces such as Fly Trap wreak sweeping, sustained damage on family members and the community at large. Balancing her roles as even-handed reporter and public scholar, Phillips presents multiple flaws within the US criminal justice system and builds a powerful argument that many law enforcement policies in fact nurture, rather than prevent, violence in American society.
The Andean region is perhaps the most violent and politically unstable in the Western Hemisphere. Politics in the Andes is the first comprehensive volume to assess the persistent political challenges facing Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.
Arguing that Andean states and societies have been shaped by common historical forces, the contributors' comparative approach reveals how different countries have responded variously to the challenges and opportunities presented by those forces. Individual chapters are structured around themes of ethnic, regional, and gender diversity; violence and drug trafficking; and political change and democracy.
Politics in the Andes offers a contemporary view of a region in crisis, providing the necessary context to link the often sensational news from the area to broader historical, political, economic, and social trends.
Sunland: A Novel
Don Waters University of Nevada Press, 2013 Library of Congress PS3623.A8688S86 2013 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Sid Dulaney, in his mid-thirties, between jobs and short on funds, has moved back to Tucson to take care of his beloved grandmother. To hold down the cost of her prescriptions, he reluctantly starts smuggling medications over the border. His picaresque misadventures involve the lovable eccentrics at her retirement village, Mexican gang threats, a voluptuous former babysitter, midnight voicemails from his exasperated ex-girlfriend, and, perplexingly, a giraffe. This first novel by the winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award proves Waters is an important new voice in American fiction. A big, rollicking, character-filled novel, Sunland is an entertaining and humane view at life on the margins in America today.
More than forty years have passed since President Richard Nixon described illegal drugs as “public enemy number one” and declared a “War on Drugs.” Recently the United Nations Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that “the global war on drugs has failed with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world.” Arguably, no other country has suffered as much from the War on Drugs as Mexico. From 2006 to 2012 alone, at least sixty thousand people have died. Some experts have said that the actual number is more than one hundred thousand. Because the war was conceived and structured by US policymakers and officials, many commentators believe that the United States is deeply implicated in the bloodshed.
A War that Can’t Be Won is the first book to include contributions from scholars on both sides of the US–Mexico border. It provides a unique breadth of perspective on the many dimensions of the societal crisis that affects residents of both nations—particularly those who live and work in the borderlands. It also proposes practical steps toward solving a crisis that shows no signs of abating under current policies. Each chapter is based on well-documented data, including previously unavailable evidence that was obtained through freedom-of-information inquiries in Mexico. By bringing together views from both sides of the border, as well as from various academic disciplines, this volume offers a much wider view of a complex problem—and possible solutions.