Alfred A. Knopf, Random House/Penguin, $27.95, 617 pages, ISBN 978-1-101-87499-8
Every now and then, a fictional novel comes along that informs as it entertains, and in doing so, the-word-of-mouth buzz about it creates a public dialogue of national significance where none existed before. Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Ironweed, by William Kennedy are some examples that came to mind. In order, they addressed slavery in America, political prisoners in the USSR being used for forced labor in Siberia, and the conditions and causes of homelessness in America. Now, a new novel has just been written about the drug wars that, in my opinion, ought to start a discussion here in the USA. Why? Because here is where the market is . . . here is where the money comes from . . . and lets face it, the so-called “War on Drugs” has been an utter failure. To call it a complete disaster would be an understatement of the first magnitude. Hundreds of billions of our tax dollars have been spent in the prosecution of it and the result is that there’s more drugs, in more places, at less prices, and more addicts than ever before. Don’t believe it? Here’s a few figures from the book we’re about to review: There are four main portals into America from Mexico—Tijuana-San Diego, CA, Juarez-El Paso, TX, Nuevo Laredo-Laredo, TX and Matamoras-Brownsville, TX which is on the Gulf Coast. Through these cities, tens of thousands of trucks pass every day. Most carry legitimate cargo. Many of them haul drugs, which mostly slip across the border because there is no way that U.S. Customs officials can inspect every vehicle without crippling trade through what is the largest commercial border in the world, and in doing so, would break our obligations under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), treaty. But wait it gets better . . .
Each of the four ports-of-entry connect to a major north-south interstate highway: I-5 at San Diego, I-25 at El Paso, and I-35 in Laredo. These in turn hook up with all the major east-west interstates . . . allowing the drug cartels easy, free access to every major city in the United States of America. Cocaine alone is a $30 billion market in the United States annually. Then there’s marijuana, methamphetamines, ecstasy (aka mollie) and the new-old scourge . . . Mexican brown tar heroin, now easily available in the smallest, most rural of hamlets, anywhere in America. You do the math. The numbers are staggering.
So, drugs come north while the money and guns go south, where tens of thousands are being slaughtered every year, because the Narcos—Drug-Lords—are fighting each other for control of the portals, or ports-of-entry which are called plazas in Mexico. Why? Because once a narco controls a plaza, he can charge all the other drug lords a tax, or piso, to ship their contraband through the area.