A December Shout To My Co-Conspirators
Seasons greetings in crazy times
Last month, I published a crazy interview by Luis Chaparro with the narco, El Plaga, who was supposed to be in a Mexican federal prison but said he was still operating on the U.S. border. By doing so, we opened ourselves up to a potential beef with the Mexican government. The following day, it was reported, Mexican federal and state officials had a meeting on the report and a functionary in Baja California claimed they would release evidence proving that El Plaga was incarcerated. Yet three weeks later not only have they shown no evidence but the federal government has not even issued a statement confirming they have him. This silence is the strongest vindication for the piece.
Such reporting shows the power of true independent journalism to get exclusives and rattle power. From exposing Mexican marines arresting ayahuasca healers (who were subsequently released), to a dark web conversation on the killing of a Mexican journalist, to the new methods (in vaginal cavities) to smuggle fentanyl, I’ve taken risks here to bring material you don’t see elsewhere. And I’ve not held back from analysis that can challenge opinion, whether on the Bukele crack down on gangs, terrorists coming through Mexico, or the nature of cartels. Independent journalism is a great platform for original thinking.
The growth of this newsletter shows people are hungry for such writing, with total subscribers shooting past the 4,000 mark. The paid subscribers are the stars making this happen and I send super festive vibes to every one of you. However, they are still a small fraction of the total, so for anyone else who is enjoying this and wants to make it keep happening and get bigger and better, please consider chipping in with a paid subscription. And hey, what’s a more original Christmas present than a sub to CrashOut? Big love to all of you whatever the weather.
With that boost out the way, onto some of the newsletter housekeeping - and your thoughts on these issues are most appreciated to be able to deliver the best shxx to you. I’ve had a big influx of Spanish-language readers, so I’ve been delivering more stories in both languages. Right now, it’s all on one list so I apologize for those getting mails you don’t understand. (Please let me know if this bothers you). However, in the archives, the Spanish stories are in a separate Español section. (And for Spanish teachers, what’s a better reading comprehension than a report like “Cómo se infiltran los cárteles en la Patrulla Fronteriza.” )
Speaking of archive, I’m pleased with the body of work building up here on cartels, drugs and bloodshed in the era of Mexico’s narco war and historic American overdoses. I encourage you to browse the site for your research here, with sections of reportage news, history, and analysis, or archive by date or popularity.
I’ve been keeping up a story a week, which seems the right amount for a steady flow but not to overload you. However, I find the cycle of news and reporting make it hard to publish like clockwork on a Monday so I release on different days between Monday and Friday. I’d originally planned these “shouts” on newsletter biz once a month, but I think now they work better every few months to keep fresh.
I’ve been keeping most the stories free but have begun paid pieces and plan for this to increase, perhaps to every other story. I also put out the first episode of the site podcast, named Narco Chronicles, with our friend Luis Chaparro on his other exclusive interview with the Sinaloa Cartel gangster Mini Lic. I’m working on a narrative podcast series with a provisional plan to release first here with a paywall, and later on commercial outlets with ads.
You may have noticed I changed the newsletter name itself to CrashOut. It seems to have a better ring than the old Narco Politics and I think it’s easier to be cited in media, especially here in Mexico.
For those who read the story on the search for my friend and photographer Ross McDonnell but didn’t see the update, I’m heartbroken to say his body was swept up on the beach almost two weeks after he disappeared. His funeral was today in Ireland and my heart goes out to his family. The world lost a great one.
Among other tragic stories, I wrote on Mexico’s worst narco massacres, and new evidence on them. But to read something lighter, I published on the weirdest story in the drug war: how the CIA promoted magic mushrooms.
I’m penning these words from Mexico’s southern state of Chiapas, which is also as magic as ever but increasingly caught up in the narco wars. I have a series of three stories coming up from the trip, on cartels, Zapatistas, and Chamulas.
Keep a look out for those starting later this week but wishing you now a great festive season. In Mexico, they call it the Lupe-Reyes, from Our Lady of Guadalupe on Dec. 12 to Three Kings on Jan. 6. That is a nice 25 days to eat, drink and make merry friends.
Copyright Ioan Grillo and CrashoutMedia 2023