Magazine article The Spectator

So Far from God . .

Magazine article The Spectator

So Far from God . .

Article excerpt

Amexica: War Along the Borderline

by Ed Vulliamy

Bodley Head, £20, pp. 336,

ISBN 97818479212841

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's second largest border city, is clogged with rubbish, fouled with car exhaust and, increasingly, flooded with narcotics. Mexican drug cartels are now so deeply ingrained in the city's political and social fabric that not a single bar or shop remains 'un-narcotised'. Mexico in the 21st century, according to Ed Vulliamy, is a nation shadowed by gangland enterprise and the rat-tat-tat of Kalashnikovs.

To live on the US-Mexican border, how ever, calls for special qualities of endurance.

The four US states bordering Mexico - Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California - have long nurtured a bandit identity founded on firearms and the right to self-defence. Many an American outlaw (John Wesley Harding, Billy the Kid) has escaped to Mexico's cactiprickly frontera. In Vulliamy's formulation, this 2,100 mile-long stretch of frontier territory is 'Amexica'. It used to be dominated by gentleman outlaws in stetsons involved in loan-sharking and smuggling.

No longer.

Amexica, a work of vivid social reportage, charts the rise of a new-look Mexican drug baron, who pursues power and money for their own sake. Poverty and the decay of civic values have allowed the narco cartels to flourish. Some 90 per cent of the cocaine currently enjoyed by Americans is thought to come across the border. Run by computer-literate entrepreneurs, the frontier cartels have spread their tentacles as far afield as oil-rich Huston; in their savagery, they kill reporters, women, magistrates and police - anyone who dares to obstruct their business.

The total of those murdered in Mexico in 2009 alone reached 7,724. Frighteningly, the violence seems to be devoid of any ideology or purpose.

After 2006, when President Felipe Calderon declared war on his country's narcotic trade, the violence became ever more grotesque. …

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