FREELANCERS and the Mexican Drug War

GrilloWASHINGTON, DC, Day 16 of 40 — Ioan Grillo is an extraordinarily successful freelance journalist. He has reported on Latin America since 2001 for international media including The New York Times, Time magazine, Reuters, CNN, the Associated Press (AP), PBS NewsHour, the Houston Chronicle, CBC, and the Sunday Telegraph, and more.

Dan Rather called Grillo’s first book, EL Narco, an example of “riveting, authoritative reporting from the front lines of the Mexican Drug War. What’s happening there has explosive potential consequences for every American, and Ioan Grillo’s book shows you why.”

Of Grillo’s second book, Gangster Warlords, one Washington Post reviewer wrote, “With terrific storytelling and analytical sweep, Grillo’s guided tour lays bare the interconnected nature of twenty-first-century crime and drug trafficking in the Americas.”

I accompanied Grillo on a reporting trip to the Mexican border city of Nogales, where I caught a fresh glimpse of life inside America’s distant neighbor. Experts say at least 175,000 people have died in the past decade in the Mexican Drug War. In the image here, Grillo (R) spots a group of men checking us out at the U.S.-Mexico frontier — a spot notorious for human and drug trafficking.

In just a few days at the border, Grillo interviewed police, city officials, refugees and their family members, human rights activists, ordinary citizens and traffickers. And I was reminded once again of the focus and relentless determination so essential to the successful practice of our craft.

For Ioan Grillo, the story here is somewhat personal.

In a brief autobiographical note on his web site, Ioan writes, “I grew up in sunny England, near the seaside city of Brighton – famous for its pink candy, pebble beaches, colleges and bubbling night clubs. It is also one of Britain’s top places for drug consumption, switching with the fashions from Moroccan hashish to Turkish heroin to Colombian cocaine. Few there ever think about where the mind-bending substances come from or what they might give or take away from those countries. In Europe and the United States a hard discussion on our drug habits and policy is long overdue.”

(Photo by Matt Cipollone)