El Sicario covers his face with layers of black cloth and talks about his life as a professional assassin, working for a Mexican drug cartel.
He could kill people quickly and cleanly without making a lot of mess or fuss, and he often did just that.
But sometimes he had to kidnap people, hold them for several days. Sometimes he would beat people or torture them. Whatever. And while many of his victims were fellow criminals who tried to rob “the boss,” others were regular guys who wouldn’t or couldn’t repay loans.
Anyone could be a kidnap victim. (And the victim was usually killed, even if the ransom was paid.) Someone innocently passing by could get caught in gunfire. And heaven help the woman or girl who spurns a “romantic” offer from an important cartel member.
The sicario sits in a chair, in the same motel room where he used to hold his kidnap victims and torture them. He has a black felt pen and a large sketch pad. As he tells his stories, he makes primitive diagrams or lists to emphasize his points.
Once one sees the number of vehicles, the personnel and the meticulous planning that go into a kidnapping, it’s clear that the victim will be captured, there’s no possibility of escape. Oh, and the police will have been told in advance to make themselves scarce.
The sicario tells us that the narcos can buy anything they want and they recognize no borders. He started doing errands for them while he was still in high school. (And drove across the border several times a week, without asking what he might be carrying.)
Later, strings were pulled so he could enter the police academy, even though he could only meet one of the five requirements for entry. The academy taught him many skills – surveillance, interrogation, how to use weapons, etc., that made him a better and deadlier criminal.
By the time he graduated, 50 members of his class of 200 were already on the payroll of the narcos. He says that the narcos are present in every institution and at every level of society.
They often used police cars to transport their drugs. And if the family members of a kidnap victim were told “Don’t go to the police,” the narcos would know right away if they did.
I wish I could make El Sicario, Room 164 required viewing for anyone who ever laughed at the idea of a Mexican seeking refugee status here in Canada, for the people who work at the Immigration and Refugee Board, and for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney.
If Mexicans say they fear for their lives, no one should automatically assume that they are lying. A CP story on the CBC website says that in 2005, 3,400 Mexicans made refugee claims in Canada. In 2009 there were 9,400 claims (remarkably close to the number of people killed that year, which was 9,600, according to a Mexican government report quoted by Democracy Now.)
But it seems that Canadian government officials didn’t look for an explanation for this increase (here’s a potential one: Mexican president Calderon brought the army into the “war on drugs” in January 2008).
No, our government decided that Mexicans would now need a visa to visit Canada. And the Citizenship and Immigration Canada document announcing the new visa strongly implies the Mexican requests are not serious. “. . .the sheer volume of these claims is undermining our ability to help people fleeing REAL persecution,” said Minister Kenney. (View this link for more info.)
The same CP story on the CBC website goes on to say: “Asylum claims from Mexico decreased 90 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009,” Ana Curic said in an email to The Canadian Press. “That has saved taxpayers $400 million.” Of course, it’s nice to save money, but did we do it at the cost of someone’s life?
In a March 2011 article that ran in many Postmedia newspapers, writer Frank Appleyard says that “Carleton University political scientist James Milner . . . was critical of Canada’s decision to impose visa restrictions on certain countries in efforts to quell a surge in refugee claims.
” ‘There’s a tension that’s emerging between how Canada understands its interests, and Canada understands its values,’ he said. ‘Canada has established itself as a leader internationally in the way that we respond to refugees and discussions about how women and children are considered within our asylum system. But there seems to be very narrow calculations taking place domestically as part of a desire to portray Canada as being tough on queue-jumpers. There is no ‘asylum queue.’”
. . .” ‘For more than a decade Canada has been seen as the model for how asylum claims get determined in an impartial way according to the letter and spirit of international and domestic refugee law,” he said. “As that becomes politicized, it’s another area where Canada loses credibility.’ “
El Sicario, Room 164 is based on an interview that the sicario gave to journalist Charles Bowden. It ran in Harpers Magazine in 2009. That interview has since been expanded into a book, El Sicario, The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin.
El Sicario, Room 164 is directed by Gianfranco Rosi. It’s in Spanish with French subtitles, and 84 minutes long. It will be shown Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011, at 2:15, in Salle Claude-Jutra, of the Cinémathèque Québécoise, 335 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.
RIDM 2011 runs from Nov. 9 – Nov. 20, 2011.
For more information, click on http://www.ridm.qc.ca/en
(This story is as much about Canadian immigration and asylum claims as it is about the film, El Sicario, Room 164.)