<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español October 20, 2014 | Issue #56


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Donate to Narco News: It Trains a New Generation of Journalists

In Addition to Publishing Investigative Journalism, Reporters Like Me Are Learning How to Do It


By Kristin Bricker
Mexico Correspondent, Narco News

April 14, 2009

The drug war is one of the most difficult beats to cover. As journalists, we must base our reports, analysis, and commentary on facts. Yet, because drug trafficking is illegal, it is shrouded in secrecy – a secrecy that is protected with violence and incarceration. The truth about drug trafficking is also cloaked in lies, half-truths, fuzzy math, and other slights of hand.

For nine years, Narco News has peeled away at the layers of secrecy and untruths to shed light on the truth behind the drug trade: its roots, consequences, participants, victims, failures, supporters and opponents. We’ve brought you consistently unique and original reporting on the drug trade because of your support.

Now, just over a week before our ninth anniversary, we need your support to continue reporting.

You can make a tax-deductible donation to support the work of Narco News through The Fund for Authentic Journalism right now by following this link.

Or you can mail a check or money order to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 USA

Everyone who contributes $100 or more will be invited to attend Narco News’ Ninth Anniversary celebration on April 22 in New York City.

Narco News breaks through the government- and media-manufactured consensus to bring you fact-based analysis about the drug war in Mexico and US involvement in it. This fact-based analysis often flies in the face of what is the “conventional wisdom” in the corporate media echo chamber.

Bill Conroy, for example, recently debunked the fuzzy math and even fuzzier logic that supported the myth that most Mexican cartel guns come from US gun shows and southern US gun dealers. His article, Legal U.S. Arms Exports May Be Source of Narco Syndicates Rising Firepower shows a positive correlation between legal arms exports from US defense contractors to Mexico and the country’s rising violence.

Conroy followed up that story with another, Private-sector Arms Sales to Mexico Sparsely Monitored by State Department. Even though Mexican President Felipe Calderon has stated that drug cartels’ missile launchers, machine guns, and grenades come from the US, Conroy wrote that the State Department has only carried out three inquiries into US defense exports since 2007.

Meanwhile, Narco News founder and publisher Al Giordano exposed the US government’s doublespeak when it comes to Mexico’s governability in his article, Reports: Carlos Pascual May Be Designated as US Ambassador to Mexico. In response to claims that the drug war and its resulting corruption have put Mexico on the road to becoming a failed state (reportedly boosted by a Pentagon study that came to that conclusion) US officials have come to the Mexican regime’s defense. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, told reporters, “I don’t believe there is any ungovernable area in Mexico.” If that’s so, Giordano wonders, then why is President Obama considering post-conflict stabilization expert and “Shock Doctor” Carlos Pascual for Ambassador to Mexico?

Regular Narco News readers surely aren’t at all surprised that Conroy and Giordano have, yet again, seen through the drug war smokescreen. I, however, am one of the beneficiaries of their breadth of experience and knowledge on this beat.

As the drug war becomes increasingly tense and violent, we have to dig deeper to find the truth behind the smoke and mirrors. As a young and relatively inexperienced journalist, I’ve hit a steep learning curve on the drug beat: it seems as though the more I learn, the more questions I have.

The news reports I publish from Mexico are enriched and guided by those experienced journalists. And for every article I publish, there are about eight e-mail exchanges between the three of us sharing information, questions, and theories about what is really going on. And since hard data is difficult to come by due to the clandestine nature of the drug industry, I’m learning to infer by overlaying other available data sources and looking for patterns.

It was Conroy who tipped me off to the emerging pattern behind major DEA busts that lead to the arrest of hundreds of people it says are working for Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Since the DEA didn’t release the name of a single person arrested from its “largest and hardest hitting operation to ever target” the Sinaloa cartel, it was impossible to tell if the people arrested were really Sinaloa cartel operatives. So I had to rely on other data and patterns to come to the conclusion in DEA’s Operation Xcellerator is Another Justice Department Dog and Pony Show, that it is unlikely that all of the arrested are indeed Sinaloa cartel operatives.

Furthermore, one of the most important things I’ve learned during my time under Conroy and Giordano’s wings is that excellent reporting is impossible without excellent questions (a point Giordano drove home in The Drug Policy Dance: Ask a Stupid Question… . While the Justice Department’s press conference on Operation Xcellerator framed the question as “Who was arrested in Operation Xcellerator,” in my article I asked, “What is the result of the 755 Operation Xcellerator arrests?” The answer to the latter question is obvious: with Operation Xcellerator, the DEA produced quantitative results in a war that has yet to produce qualitative results. In that light, the true identities and allegiances of the 755 arrestees are secondary matters.

Giordano prides himself on training journalists, particularly ones who report on drugs and social movements throughout Latin America. He’s not only concerned with producing quality reporters; thorough training is essential to our safety here in Mexico. I run particularly sensitive stories, interview ideas, and journalism-related travel plans by Giordano before I move forward, such as when I published Who Won and Who Lost in Mexico’s Narco Protests, which exposed anti-military protests as pro-government spectacles.

In the nine years since Narco News began publishing, I’ve come in line behind more than 100 young journalists that attended The School of Authentic Journalism and similar workshops or that were led by the experienced award-winning journalists of Narco News on “road teams” to report a specific story (I got my start with this online newspaper as part of the 2006 road team covering the Zapatista Other Campaign throughout many northern Mexican towns and cities.)

In short, Narco News’ emphasis on mentorship of young journalists means that you’re not just donating to The Fund for Authentic Journalism so that Narco News can continue to publish for the next couple of months; your donation helps train a new generation of authentic journalists who will carry on the fight for decades to come.

So please donate right now at The Fund for Authentic Journalism website, or send your check or money order to:

The Fund for Authentic Journalism
PO Box 241
Natick, MA 01760 USA

Yours is the gift that very much keeps on giving and will continue to do so at least for another generation to come.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America