Cartel by Sylvia Longmire: A Short Review

M-DrugWar1-470x260In my searching for material about the Rio Grande Valley, I stumbled on Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars by Sylvia Longmire.   I ordered and read her book and decided I need to write a short review. Sylvia has also agreed to an interview on this blog, which will follow this posting shortly. I’m a bit overwhelmed by the topic, but I did want to express a few thoughts about Longmire’s well-written book.

The title alone is a foreshadowing of the content. Anyone who has given thought to the anarchy and death in Mexico, especially Northern Mexico, knows what is implied.  Ms. Longmire concludes, and I think correctly, that the War on Drugs is one we cannot win. The best we can hope for is to manage it and keep it from getting too out of hand. Ms. Longmire also indicates that the Drug War has already crossed the border as the cartels–who as I pointed in my articles about Charles Bowden and his books–are moving north, better armed, with better technology, and more money than our own government.  The drugs continue to move through our ports of entry because of bribery of officials–both in law enforcement, businesses, and politicians.  This war is no longer a question of resources. It’s a question of will, of ethics, of how our next generations will deal with the issues and where we will go as a nation.

Longmire attempts to be politely optimistic about Mexico, but from what I see in the evidence she presents, in my opinion, Mexico is a basket case economically, morally, and politically.  Without the billions of dollars pouring in from the drug trade, Mexico would collapse. She correctly points out that legalization of drugs is not the only solution to the problem of the drug cartels, as the drug lords will continue with the kidnappings, extortion, and murder that has created a nightmare and made so many flee Mexico.

Longmire’s book has twelve well-written chapters. She makes very practical suggestions as to how Mexico can be taken back from the narcos. I think she’s accurate in her suggestions, but I’m pessimistic about whether they can be implemented. It may require a major border crisis–a violent spillover of blood, or changes in the politics of Mexican/American relations–before things radically change. I do think she may be overly optimistic about Mexico’s ability and will to deal with their crisis  For now, the North above Mexico is safer, but human nature being what it is, that could change.  As one who travels to the Rio Grande Valley frequently for my storytelling and music, I think about this often.

If you’re one who cares about the drug war, or are concerned about the border, you need to read this book as painful as it might be in some passages. As for me, I felt the truth of what she wrote immediately. Her writing indicates she put much thought and research into this well-endorsed book. You can connect to her blog and  read more about Ms. Longmire here, and you can order her book here: Ms. Longmire has done what our media has not done–analyzed, prepared a thoughtful overview and revealed a worsening situation along our own border.  How this war will change our border and our nation is the focal question that remains to be answered

MLA Entry:

Longmire, Sylvia. Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars. Palgrave/Macmillan:        New York: 2011