To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War

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Overview

"Gibler is something of a revelation, having been living and writing from Mexico for a range of progressive publications only since 2006, but providing reflections, insights, and a level of understanding worthy of a veteran correspondent."—Latin American Review of Books

Combining on-the-ground reporting and in-depth discussions with people on the frontlines of Mexico's drug war, To Die in Mexico tells behind-the-scenes stories that address the causes and consequences of Mexico's...

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To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War

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Overview

"Gibler is something of a revelation, having been living and writing from Mexico for a range of progressive publications only since 2006, but providing reflections, insights, and a level of understanding worthy of a veteran correspondent."—Latin American Review of Books

Combining on-the-ground reporting and in-depth discussions with people on the frontlines of Mexico's drug war, To Die in Mexico tells behind-the-scenes stories that address the causes and consequences of Mexico's multibillion dollar drug trafficking business. John Gibler looks beyond the myths that pervade government and media portrayals of the unprecedented wave of violence now pushing Mexico to the breaking point.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Gibler (Mexico Unconquered) documents Mexico's drug war, its enormous profits and grievous human costs, in taut prose and harrowing detail. As the demand for recreational drugs spikes in the U.S., money from the drug trade has become Mexico's largest source of income. Gibler's front-line reportage coupled with first-rate analysis gives an uncommonly vivid and nuanced picture of a society riddled and enervated by corruption, shootouts, and raids, where murder is the "most popular method of conflict resolution." Since 2006, 34,000 Mexicans have been killed; "death is a part of the overhead, a business expense," observes Gibler. Even the hired killers, often impoverished teenagers who are paid about a week, are executed by the very people who hire them, after their "job" is done. At great personal risk, the author unearths stories the mainstream media doesn't—or is too afraid—to cover, and gives voice to those who have been silenced or whose stories have been forgotten—murdered journalists in Reynosa, students slain in the streets, and even a man who was killed because, tired of finding dead bodies outside his house, he had hung a sign reading "Prohibited: Littering and Dumping Corpses." (June)
From the Publisher

"Gibler (Mexico Unconquered) documents Mexico's drug war, its enormous profits and grievous human costs, in taut prose and harrowing detail. As the demand for recreational drugs spikes in the U.S., money from the drug trade has become Mexico's largest source of income. Gibler's front-line reportage coupled with first-rate analysis gives an uncommonly vivid and nuanced picture of a society riddled and enervated by corruption, shootouts, and raids, where murder is the 'most popular method of conflict resolution.' Since 2006, 34,000 Mexicans have been killed; 'death is a part of the overhead, a business expense,' observes Gibler. Even the hired killers, often impoverished teenagers who are paid about $300 a week, are executed by the very people who hire them, after their "job" is done. At great personal risk, the author unearths stories the mainstream media doesn't--or is too afraid--to cover, and gives voice to those who have been silenced or whose stories have been forgotten--murdered journalists in Reynosa, students slain in the streets, and even a man who was killed because, tired of finding dead bodies outside his house, he had hung a sign reading 'Prohibited: Littering and Dumping Corpses.'" — Publishers Weekly (Starred review)

"From its first shocking paragraph, this book takes the reader inside Mexico's drug war, a very real shooting battle involving rival gangs fighting to control hundreds of billions of dollars in product. And not only is the government unable to stop the war, in many cases, the government is part of it. To get the real story, journalist Gibler (also the author of Mexico Unconquered) hit the streets in some of the most dangerous Mexican cities and neighborhoods, speaking to reporters, photographers, kidnap victims, and the families of the murdered. The code of silence is difficult to break, since reporting on the drug cartels means almost certain death, often with impunity: only five percent of murders are investigated by the Mexican police. The problem is only growing, and the single thing likely to stop this juggernaut is drug legalization, which would make the trade less lucrative. But such a remedy isn't politic, and so the wars and the killings continue.

Verdict This grim but important chronicle is an essential read for anyone interested in the real consequences of the war-on-drugs rhetoric." — Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., OH, Library Journal

"Gibler provides a fascinating and detailed insight into the history of both drug use in the US and the 'war on drugs' unleashed by Ronald Reagan through the very plausible – but radical – lens of social control. . . . Throughout this short but powerful book, Gibler accompanies journalists riding the grim carousel of death on Mexico's streets, exploring the realities of a profession under siege in states such as Sinaloa and just how they cover the drugs war."
—Gavin O’Toole, The Latin American Review of Books

"Gibler argues passionately to undercut this 'case study in failure.' The drug barons are only getting richer, the murders mount and the police and military repression expand as 'illegality increases the value of the commodity.' With legality, both U.S. and Mexican society could address real issues of substance abuse through education and public-health initiatives. A visceral, immediate and reasonable argument." — Kirkus Reviews

"The historical context provided in 'To Die in Mexico' is essential for understanding the current drug war in Mexico. Gibler covers the political, social, and economic factors that have contributed to the violence, convincingly making the case that 'absolute prohibition is legislated death.' Yet the true lifeblood of the book is the personal stories that Gibler tells through his interviews. Despite its title and thorough grounding in the disturbing reality of Mexico's narco-violence, 'To Die in Mexico' is focused on life—the lives of Mexicans who have lost loved ones, the journalists who cover the drug war in spite of its dangers, and even the lives of the dead, who would otherwise remain anonymous." —Anila Churi, Nacla Report on the Americas

"The days of 'cool and groovy' drug use are over, and Gibler explains in detail how a binational legalization of these drugs might be the only way out." — Bloomsbury Review

"Not surprisingly given his own position as a reporter covering the drug war, Gibler pays particular attention to the critical role that journalists are playing in the conflict. Many have died for their courage: since 2000, more than 70 journalists have been murdered, while 15 others have disappeared in the past six years. . . Gibler's book is valuable for its ability to capture this unfolding nightmare in words." --Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

"This short but unforgettable book shocks, disgusts, saddens, and eventually enrages the reader. Gibler’s narrative provides us with in-your-face proof of that which many already know deep inside but some don’t want us to remember . . . One cannot read this account and think that the war on drugs is much more than a sick criminal scam set up by entrenched interests motivated by power and greed. And power and greed are winning. . . . Yet the book ends on a note of hope." -- Erowid Review

"Many writers have pondered the evil and madness of the Mexican/American 'drug war.' Few have analyzed it with such vividness and clarity as John Gibler." — Howard Campbell, Professor of Anthropology, University of Texas, El Paso

"If you want to cut through the lies, obfuscation and sheer lunacy that surrounds Mexico's so-called drug war, read To Die in Mexico. John Gibler reports from Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Culiacan&ndashthe bloodiest battlegrounds in a fever of violence that has left more than 38,000 dead. But he accepts none of the prevailing myths&ndashthat this is a war between rival criminal enterprises, or between a crusading government and assorted barbarous bad guys, that it is a war at all. An antidote to the sensationalism and mythologizing that dominate the discourse, To Die in Mexico is at once a gripping read and the smartest, sanest book yet written on the subject in English." — Ben Ehrenreich, author of The Suitors and Ether

"To Die in Mexico shows all the horror of Mexico's current turmoil over drugs—but goes beyond the usual pornography of violence to its critically-informed broader context. Gibler also reveals the brave civic resistance to death cults and official silencing by, among others, some of the remarkable Mexican journalists trying to tell the drug war's hidden story." — Paul Gootenberg, author of Andean Cocaine: The Making of a Global Drug

Kirkus Reviews

An American journalist delves into the grim, relentless drug war between Mexico and the United States and advocates for legalization as the only answer to stop the violence.

An intrepid California-based journalist who risked his life to pursue the interviews he records with Mexican officials and victims here, Gibler (Mexico Unconquered) recounts an endless litany of violence that has exploded during the tenures of Carlos Salinas, Ernesto Zedillo, Vicente Fox and, especially, Felipe Calderon. The various drug cartels—the Gulf cartel, the Zetas, the Sinaloa Cartel, among others—have only grown stronger over the years (the Sinaloa Cartel has been responsible for 84 percent of the recent drug murders). From the time a substance moves in its rawest form—100 kilograms of coca leaves reaps $1,000 for the Colombian farmer—to its arrival on the streets of America (a kilo of cocaine is worth $100,000), its value has increased by more than 3,000 percent. Hence, drugs are big business, especially for the banks, who launder the spectacular profits. The corruption of organized crime has infiltrated every segment of Mexican society, as Gibler demonstrates here, visiting prisons and civic groups, who express an utter sense of hopelessness and despair. However, the author has found fighting spirits, such as young murdered men's mothers who show up bravely and demand a police reckoning; and the journalists mourning their murdered fellow colleagues at El Diario de Juarez. Gibler argues passionately to undercut this "case study in failure." The drug barons are only getting richer, the murders mount and the police and military repression expand as "illegality increases the value of the commodity." With legality, both U.S. and Mexican society could address real issues of substance abuse through education and public-health initiatives.

A visceral, immediate and reasonable argument.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872865174
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Series: City Lights Open Media
  • Pages: 200
  • Sales rank: 622,271
  • Product dimensions: 4.86 (w) x 6.98 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


John Gibler weaves narrative journalism with lyrical descriptions, combining the journalist's trade of walking the streets and the philosopher's task of drawing out the tremendous implications of the seemingly mundane. Gibler has been living and writing from Mexico since 2006. He has reported for Left Turn, In These Times, Common Dreams, Yes! Magazine, Colorlines, and ZNet, and has been featured on NPR's All Things Considered, CNN, and Democracy Now!
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2012

    John Gibler’s To Die in Mexico: Dispatches From Inside the

    John Gibler’s To Die in Mexico: Dispatches From Inside the Drug War reflects the division of the Mexican nation, in which the majority of Mexican people is fighting for more welfare, equality, and respect against the ruling elite. Gibler highlights the difference between the War on Drugs and the drug war. The War on Drugs is the spectacle—designed to show that the Mexican government is confronting what is considered the “menace to society” that the drug trafficking organizations represent. The drug war is something else entirely; it is what is really going on. It is personified by thousands of murders, the ability of cartel killers to work during daylight hours in cities full of law enforcement and never get arrested, and the unending flow of drugs and cash. The drug war illustrates the obvious conspiracy between security and different cartels, all within the context of a nation unable to provide safety for its citizens. I tend to agree with Gibler’s thesis that the Mexican government is not promoting “the good,”—that which looks out for the good of all within the polis—but instead is demoting it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2013

    Anonymous

    Excellent book, an exciting read, the beginning of the book really gets your interest. Three carefree college students on spring break driving through Mexico, through an idylic and beautiful country side, but in your mind you know it isn't going to last, so you read on. You have no idea how explosive this story is going to get. I highly recommend reading this book by a highly talented author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2012

    Meh...

    Clearly written by a journalist, this book is an easy read that makes many points through bold examples that are undoubtably true.
    I bought this for perspective in a history class looking at the drug war in Mexico. The author does not give sources for his statistics which keeps me wondering how current or accurate his numbers are.
    But like I said, it is a fast and exciting read. If you're looking for a book that will rile your emotions about the violence in Mexico, and give a center/left view of the sources of these events, then this is the book for you. If you're center/right or jingoistic, this book will keep you shaking your head.

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  • Posted September 24, 2011

    Not as good as I expected

    Some great narratives and Gibler's a good writer. However, there are several factual errors interspersed throughout the book, and Gibler's aggressive political invectives are a turn-off for someone just wanted to learn more about the drug war from the ground level.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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