cover image The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

The Dope: The Real History of the Mexican Drug Trade

Benjamin T. Smith. Norton, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-324-00655-8

The evolution of the Mexican drug trade over the past century is a sordid tale of murder, torture, corruption, and political opportunism fed by America’s thirst for narcotics and the poverty of Mexico’s drug-producing provinces, according to this doggedly researched history. Smith (The Mexican Press and Civil Society, 1940–1976), a professor of Latin American history at the University of Warwick, documents shifting market trends and the many ways drugs are smuggled into the U.S. (including via drones, GPS-guided submersibles, and “massive catapults”), and details corruption on both sides of the border. Staggering statistics (one estimate suggests that as many as 65,000 Mexicans were killed in “drug-related murders” from 2006 to 2012) are reinforced by harrowing descriptions of assassinations and kidnappings. Smith also depicts atrocities committed by Mexico’s drug enforcement agencies, and the complicity of U.S. agents who failed to intervene. Forcefully arguing that the “war on drugs” has been a failure, Smith believes that little in Mexico will change as long as narcotics remain illegal. Though the relentless back-and-forth of cartel violence grows numbing, Smith’s depth of knowledge astonishes, and his pointed critiques of U.S. drug policy hit home. This searing history leaves a mark. (Aug.)