While members of the press in the United States take a bashing — perhaps because many deserve it — there are still a few valiant role models who demonstrate all is not lost. Glenn Greenwald and Ben Swann come to mind, and as noted recently here at the PanAm, Janet Hinostroza and Gabriela Calderon have been courageous in Ecuador.
Just today, however, a new individual came to my attention, and an interview on Democracy Now compels me to share her story. (See below.) Author of Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers and based in Mexico, her name is Anabel Hernández.
Her work has uncovered beyond-dirty relationships between drug cartels and government agents and elected officials on both sides of the border. Predictably, she has been the subject of “so many death threats, the [Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos] assigned her two full-time bodyguards.”
In Mexico, she says, there is no real war on drugs. Rather, the politicians and law enforcement agents are getting in on the action, working on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel and assisting them in dominating their competitors. Even the highest chief of police under former Mexican President Filipe Calderon, Genaro García Luna, was on the payroll of the Sinaloa.
As Bloomberg News reported this past week, the illiterate leader — Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera — and his cartel supply “80 percent of the heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — with a street value of US$3 billion — that floods the Chicago region each year,” and he has a 150,000-strong enterprise of recruits. Although carrying a US$5 million bounty, he apparently manages to remain protected by hanging out in Guatemala and Honduras and, according to Hernández, is “the most powerful drug lord in the world.”
To make matters worse, she says, many of the assets supposedly assigned to fighting against the cartels — received from the US Drug Enforcement Administration — are now in the hands of those very cartels.
Following the dictum of “first they ignore you,” government officials simply went about their ways and did not say anything in response to Hernández’s work. However, she believes some are now seeking contract assassins to take care of her and that people are gradually realizing the truth: the “bloody war was a shame. It was fake. It wasn’t true. The government didn’t want to fight against the drug cartels.”
Most importantly, she says, corruption hurts and is “the mother of El Chapo Guzmán.” Mexico is a very dangerous place, and that may sadden her, but she is a journalist and has “a duty to say the truth.”
Although open to legalization, as a way to curb the violence, she is not sure that Mexican people are ready for that yet.