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Texas Book Festival — San Antonio Edition

Interview with Ricardo Ainslie

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo


You talk about this historical backdrop of corruption in Mexico, power and influence trading. How did that old-age type of corruption gradually create this new monster with the cartels in Juárez?

It's almost a kind of truism that in Mexico there's a lot of corruption. If you look at these indices that the United Nations creates for societies and corruption, Mexico always ranks fairly high.
The idea of corruption on a sort of day-to-day basis is just sort of how Mexican society has often worked. You need a driver’s license? You have to pay for it. You need a death certificate? You have to pay somebody. You get stopped, whether you violated a law or not, you have to pay the cop, otherwise you're gonna have more problems at any level. That's how things work and that's how things have historically worked within the system. So you have a pattern, almost a kind of a culture, within which those kinds of transactions are just seen as the bread and butter of how those things work.
All of a sudden, you've got powerful organized crime organizations – like five, six, seven of them,  depending on the year – and by some estimates these groups are bringing in about $40 billion in profits. All of a sudden you've got organized criminal interests that have a lot of money, an incredible amount of money. And it sort of creates a new level in this game, a level that's really unprecedented. And it's coming from outside the official area – historically, that kind of corruption would be governors or legislators or people in the cabinet. But now, the people who really control that game are people who are outside of the system. They're outside the system, but now they're controlling the system itself.

People that don't even have to feign any sort of concern for the public interest …

Right, exactly. The mask is completely torn off, in a way. But also, what's happened is you've sort of inverted the way the system works. At least historically, if, say, the Juárez cartel was getting out of line, there was a cost to be paid. Maybe government would come in and arrest some of their people and take them out of business or whatever. The network of corruption functioned differently. But all of a sudden, with the kind of massive profits these cartels start reaping, once they became the key players in the international drug world, once they sort of usurped the power of the Colombians, now they're really calling the shots. They have tremendous influence, power, and impunity. And it's within the very system that has made impunity the norm. Impunity is the norm. Few people are actually prosecuted for their crimes.
So if you've already got a system that's sort of defined by impunity, in terms of its court system and its law enforcement, and now you've got these other players and this kind of cash, they can play that system really well. There's hardly ever any consequence for them to pay. The real consequence is you have wars. Like between the Juárez and Sinaloa cartels.

Texas Book Festival — San Antonio Edition
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  • Interview with Ricardo Ainslie Ricardo Ainslie frequented Juárez during its most violent years, as war between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels raged and soaked the city in blood. | 4/10/2013
  • Interview with Laurie Ann Guerrero Laurie Ann Guerrero’s collection Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying won the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and was published February 15 by University of... | 4/10/2013
  • Interview with Nan Cuba You Can’t Go Home Again: Fiction about Family Secrets with Nan Cuba and Andrew Porter | 4/10/2013
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