People, Poverty, and Narco-Violence

Here’s a good article examining the root causes of Mexico’s violent drug trade.

The narcos I spoke with do not see themselves as victims or monsters. They do not justify their involvement in the drug trade as a survival strategy. They acknowledge that they chose this illegal industry – even when work in the informal economy would have allowed them to support their families – because, they told me, they wanted “more.”

Despite seeing themselves as free agents who decided to work in the drug trade, the men I interviewed also see themselves as disposable. They shared feelings of social exclusion and a lack of purpose in life. They felt worthless.

“I knew I was alone,” one man, Rigoleto, told me. “If I wanted something, I had to get it myself.”

* * *

Mexico’s narcos may not blame the state or society for their condition of poverty – each is, after all, his own man – but they don’t feel remorse for their crimes either. They had the “bad luck” to be born in poverty, they told me, and their victims had the “bad luck” to be in their way.

* * *

The narco discourse puts poverty in sharp relief. The men I spoke with believe poor people have no future and, therefore, have nothing to lose.

“I knew I would grow up and die in poverty,” said one of my interviewees, Wilson. “I just asked God: Why me?”

Poverty is understood as an inevitable condition. “Somebody has to be poor,” said one man, Lamberto.

“There is nothing you can do to avoid it,” said another, Tabo.

The narco discourse also assumes that poor children will, like them, inevitably become involved with drugs and gangs. It is taken for granted that poor children have no future, that they are disposable.

“When you grow up in a poor neighborhood you know that at some point you will become a drug addict,” said Palomo. “When you are a drug addict you see yourself as rubbish. Who would care about the life of a poor drug addict?”

Read the whole article at

And thanks to Molly Malloy at FronteraList for sharing.


  1. My problem with that idea (“The narco discourse also assumes that poor children will, like them, inevitably become involved with drugs and gangs”) is that drugs cost a lot of money. In their mind set, they ask themselves, ‘how can a poor person pay for them without committing crimes to acquire money’? At the same time, I gotta ask also, which came first? The drug addiction, or the commission of crimes to pay for the drugs? I think this defeatist attitude is what needs to change, and basically, some people are just lying to themselves.

    1. Drugs are cheap, per dose, at the wholesale level. And the first one’s free.

      I think that the author’s position is that drug dealing is a lifestyle choice in lives that have few lifestyle choices.

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