Pubdate: Thu, 06 Aug 2015
Source: Boston Herald (MA)
Copyright: 2015 The Boston Herald, Inc
Note: Prints only very short LTEs.
Author: George F. Will


WASHINGTON - Don Winslow, novelist and conscientious objector to 
America's longest "war," was skeptical when he was in Washington on a 
recent Sunday morning.

This was shortly after news broke about the escape, from one of 
Mexico's "maximum security" prisons, of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, 
head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Guzman reportedly escaped through a 5-foot-tall tunnel almost a mile 
long and built solely for his escape.

Asked about this, Winslow, his fork poised over an omelet, dryly said 
he thinks Guzman might actually have driven away from the prison's 
front gate in a Lincoln Town Car. What might seem like cynicism could 
be Winslow's realism. Fourteen years ago, Guzman escaped from another 
"maximum security" prison simply by hiding in a laundry cart. With 
exquisite understatement, The Wall Street Journal reports that his 
recent escape raised "new concerns about corruption in Mexican law 

Winslow, 61, was in Washington to publicize his 16th crime novel, 
"The Cartel," a sequel to "The Power of the Dog" (2005). Both are 
about Guzman and other heads of the Sinaloa and rival cartels.

The novels are, together, 1,200 pages of gripping narrative, 
mind-numbing carnage and mind-opening reportage about the "war on 
drugs" that is in its fifth decade.

Since President Nixon declared the war, the quality of drugs reaching 
American streets has risen and prices have fallen.

More Mexicans have died in drug-related violence - 100,000 in 10 
years; overall, many more than twice the number of American 
fatalities in Vietnam. Winslow believes that the Islamic State is 
mimicking the cartels' "vocabulary of mutilation" to create its 
charisma of cruelty - Internet videos of beheadings, dismemberments, 
crucifixions, flayings, immolations, etc. "The Cartel" is dedicated 
to 131 journalists, all named, who, because of their reporting on 
drug violence, are known to have died or vanished. "There were 
others," he says. And there probably will be more.

Many of Winslow's lurid passages - all, he says, "inspired by actual 
events" - are essentially confirmed in Roberto Saviano's 
"ZeroZeroZero," a non-fiction book on the world cocaine trade, 
written by the Italian journalist who has had police protection since 
he first published in 2006 "Gomorrah," a report on a Neapolitan 
branch of the Sicilian Mafia. Saviano, a somewhat overwrought writer, 
understands the power of economics: One-thousand euros invested in 
Apple stock in January 2012 would have been worth 1,670 euros 12 months later.

But 1,000 euros invested in cocaine in Colombia could have been sold 
for 182,000 euros in Europe, assuming - a reasonable bet - you could 
get it past law enforcement.

Mexico is a casualty of a U.S. drug enforcement success.

In the 1980s, the South Florida Task Force produced the "balloon 
effect" - squeeze a balloon in one spot, it bulges in another.

The Task Force deflected sea-borne cocaine imports - to Mexico. Hence 
today's northward flow of drugs, southward flow of money and 
drenching flow of Mexican blood as the cartels war with one another 
and with Mexico's federal, state and local governments.

Some U.S. emergency room physicians are, Winslow says, glad that 
Mexicans have taken over most manufacturing of methamphetamines - 
because this has "standardized the product," making it easier for 
physicians to standardize treatment protocols.

In both novels, Winslow relentlessly but not unreasonably compares 
the war on drugs to the war in Vietnam - American "advisers," "the 
dull bass whop-whopwhop of helicopter rotors," defoliants, 
assassinations, intelligence failures and futility.

A man of the left, Winslow has scant sympathy for U.S. foreign policy 
problems in Central America during the Cold War, when, he says, 
arming anti-communists became entangled with the drug trade.

He favors drug legalization because interdiction "is a broom sweeping 
back the ocean" and because legalization would financially cripple 
the cartels. But less bloodshed in Mexico would mean more social 
regression in America: Today's levels of addiction are nowhere near 
the levels that probably would be reached under legalization, even 
without assuming the marketing measures that probably would be legal. 
So read his novels as didactic entertainment - you will be vastly 
entertained while learning many disturbing things - not as policy 

Winslow now lives in Southern California not far from the border. 
When he decided to become a writer he moved to Idaho, where his 
sister was mayor of the town of Hope. He settled in a nearby area 
known as - really - Beyond Hope, a good place to begin his path to "The Cartel."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom