Small Wars Journal

In Mexico, Narco Films vs. Narco Reality

Sun, 07/24/2016 - 1:25am

In Mexico, Narco Films vs. Narco Reality by Ioan Grillo, New York Times

Mexico City — It was a television executive’s nightmare: Not only was someone threatening to sue over a TV series, but that person was reputedly the biggest drug trafficker on the planet and the head of a cartel behind a long string of mass executions and torture videos.

The first sign of trouble came in May, after Netflix and Univision released a trailer for their series “El Chapo,” based on the imprisoned Mexican kingpin Joaquín Guzmán. The trafficker’s lawyer announced through various media outlets that he would go to court if his client’s name and story were used without payment. “The señor” — Mr. Guzmán — “has not died. He is not a character in the public domain. He is alive. He has to grant them permission,” the lawyer, Andrés Granados, told a Mexican radio station.

The declarations put the show’s producers in a predicament. If they go ahead with the series, due in 2017, they could face a legal battle — and the possibility that, should he lose, Mr. Guzmán might seek retribution out of court. But if they get into negotiating with Mr. Guzmán, they face other problems. Would they be cooperating with organized crime? El Chapo’s lawyer suggested that he could help make the TV series better by giving details no journalist had yet dug up. But could that mean acting as a propaganda instrument for a crime boss?

The quandary reflects bigger dilemmas in the growing world of narco fiction. Dramatic portrayals of Mexican crime kings, which began as zany B-grade movies, have evolved into wildly popular soap operas, best-selling novels and major Hollywood productions. They are part of a wider narco culture, ranging from pop-music ballads to fashion trends. Meanwhile, from 2007 to 2014 more than 80,000 Mexicans were killed by cartel-related violence, according to a government count…

Read on.

Categories: El Centro