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Delving Deeper Into the History of Mexico's Illegal Drug Business on 'Narcos: Mexico'
February 13, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


The romantic view of marijuana as a bit of harmless good-time fun takes a hit in the resumption of the Netflix series Narcos.

Narcos: Mexico, whose ten episodes become available Thursday, is actually the fourth production in the Narcos series.

The first three roughly told the story of the notorious Colombian cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, and this fourth series brings the story north to the tale of Felix Gallardo (Diego Luna, top), who made his fortune growing marijuana for export to the U.S.

Gallardo started his professional career as a law enforcement officer in Sinaloa, a prime pot-growing state in Southwest Mexico.

He became friendly with, among others, the governor of Sinaloa, and soon realized the federal government had little use for Sinaloa or interest in improving the lives of its citizenry. No official in Sinaloa, however noble his or her intentions, was ever going to go much of anywhere or get many rewards.

Gallardo had higher ambitions for himself and his family, so he switched sides. Instead of apprehending people who grew and distributed marijuana, he went into the business himself.

With the help of his brother Rafa, who had skills in horticulture and geology, Gallardo determined that it made more sense to base the growing operations in Guadalajara.

Since the federal government was systematically burning all the fields in Sinaloa, there wasn't much to lose. It's not that the feds had a chance of shutting down the Sinaloa fields, but that the crop destruction did make distribution erratic, and that was bad for business.

As a bright young man with an idea, good contacts, smart associates, and a little bit of luck, Gallardo rose quickly in the game.

Narcos: Mexico, like its predecessor series, features a voiceover narration in a no-nonsense, often profane style. The narration also has a point of view: that all discussions about the morality and value of smoking marijuana mean little or nothing compared to the human toll in the country where much of America's marijuana has traditionally been grown.

The "Mexican drug war," Narcos: Mexico tells us, has cost half a million lives over the last several decades, including countless innocents caught in crossfires.

What began as essentially a farming operation escalated into a war, because, obviously, the product has been almost entirely illegal. In an effort to protect its own citizens against the ravages of drugs, the U.S. pressured Mexico to kill the industry. Killing people was, in most cases, the unintended consequence.

Narcos: Mexico gets a little more specific than that, tracing the start of the drug war to a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent named Kiki Camarena (Michael Pena).

Camarena is portrayed as a straight arrow who was frustrated that the DEA, in its early days, got little respect. After five years with few resources and little authority, he pushed for a transfer to Guadalajara – only to find the office there was what its chief called "a data-collecting agency," doing virtually no field operations.

Camarena pushed to change that, and Narcos: Mexico starts by recounting his story in parallel with Gallardo's.

Like the earlier Narcos series, this one doesn't shy away from blood and violence but also doesn't revel in it. It's more interested in the big picture of how the marijuana industry, whose product is widely considered benign fun in the United States, became a lethal weapon on an almost unimaginable scale.

It takes some dramatic license in telling that story. It still gives the concept of "recreational use" a different dimension.

 
 
 
 
 
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