This book could function as an owner’s manual for the Mexican drug cartels. Here we find the first good description of the plaza — that arrangement where the Mexican government seeks a partner to supervise all criminal activity in a city. And how to maintain discipline by killing everyone connected to a lost load lest a traitor survive. And also the history of the shift of power from Colombia to Mexico, when American efforts hampered the pathways in Florida and made Mexico the trampoline for cocaine shipments into the U.S. markets.
I remember in the mid-nineties paying fifty dollars for a copy of Drug Lord in a used bookstore in El Paso and being damned happy to get my hands on it.
Terrence Poppa was a reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post. In the eighties, he captured the rise and fall of Pablo Acosta in Ojinaga, the border town across from Presidio, Texas. By that act, he wrote the history of the key moment when flights of cocaine from Columbia entered the Mexican economy. He interviewed the players, got down their life histories and made the indelible point that the people written off by their own country as ill-educated bumkins were creative and were turning power on its head in the nation. Acosta’s slaughter by Mexican comandante Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, with the help of the FBI, ended this kind of access. Since then, becoming famous and talking to the press — which Acosta did — has been seen as a fatal decision. And since then, the Mexican drug industry has become a source of thirty to fifty billion dollars of foreign currency a year for the Mexican economy — second only to oil, and now the oil fields of Mexico are collapsing. Read more »