The series responds narrating the supposed beginning of the "war against drugs", when the Sinaloan traffickers Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, Rafael Caro Quintero, and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, together with the political-business oligarchy of the country, organized a criminal "empire" during the 1980s that, among other things, ended by kidnapping, torturing and murdering the agent of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Enrique Kiki Camarena. But in the context of the political transition with the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the cultural phenomenon that gives rise to Narcos: Mexico is symptomatic of the persistent hegemonic narrative about drug trafficking that has justified the militarization of our country with catastrophic results: more of 250 thousand murders and more than 30 thousand forced disappearances in the last 10 years.

That same narrative reappears in films, novels, music, conceptual art and, of course, television series such as Narcos, and has manufactured a collective consensus that shapes public opinion for the acceptance of the drug strategy that Felipe Calderón's term to date has guaranteed that the armed forces remain in charge of national security in Mexico. This militarization is the result of the American hegemony that has permeated in the fields of cultural production

The death of "Kiki" Camarena

On February 7, 1985, Enrique Camarena, a 37-year-old DEA agent with experience in the Navy and as an anti-narcotics police officer, was kidnapped - not without some irony for the current political context - upon leaving the United States Consulate in the city of Guadalajara. He died after two days of torture, although his body was not found until the following March 5.
The official version and numerous journalistic and academic investigations explain the murder of Camarena as drug dealer Rafael Caro Quintero's revenge for the seizure in November 1984 of between 5 and 10 thousand tons of seedless marijuana in the fields of the El Búfalo ranch, in the state of Chihuahua, where around 7 thousand farmers processed the drug.
This interpretation was established from the first book on Camarena's murder: the journalistic investigation Desperados (1988), by the American Elaine Shannon. "Put pressure on the traffickers and they kill you," Shannon writes. "Don't pressure them and they'll acquire so much power and recklessness that they'll kill you." The opinion of the DEA not only prevails in that book, but it drives the logic of its reflection. It even concludes that official corruption in Mexico "is total." The blind spot in Shannon's work, as in most journalism on the subject, is the mediation of US agencies that monopolize information about the power of traffickers. Without greater scrutiny, journalists and academics accept unverifiable data that far from explaining the phenomenon of drug trafficking, rather impose the official version in this regard.
Two books exemplify this problem: The Badge: A history of the intelligence services in Mexico (2001), by the academic Sergio Aguayo Quezada, and Buendía: The first murder of narcopolitics in Mexico (2012), by journalist Miguel Ángel Granados Chapa. Reproducing the official US version, both attribute the murder of Camarena to Caro Quintero and the other Guadalajara traffickers, underlining the excessive power of the "drug cartels."
The American gaze
This is, of course, the vision of Narcos: Mexico. Narrated by a DEA agent, the series addresses the history of Mexican traffickers with a US look that presents the phenomenon of drug trafficking as an exclusively domestic problem in Mexico. Although the ascent of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (played by Diego Luna), Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo (Joaquín Cosío) and Rafael Caro Quintero (Tenoch Huerta) begins in complicity with the Federal Security Directorate -DFS, the repressive political police of the PRI- The Mexican narcos soon became independent, building from the city of Guadalajara a network of marijuana and cocaine traffickinng that was arranged in "plazas" in the main cities of the north of the country, such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.
The Mexican-American agent Enrique Camarena, recently assigned to the DEA office in Guadalajara, manages to strike a blow to the organization of traffickers with the seizure of marijuana at El Bufalo ranch. Camarena and the other DEA agents also obtain incriminating information through a telephone espionage operation at the offices of Felix Gallardo.
According to the series, they are the partners of the "narcos" from the political-business class who plan the kidnapping of Camarena to determine what evidence the DEA had obtained. Fearful of his own future, however, Gallardo orders to continue the torture of Camarena that culminates with the death of the agent.
The production team of the series explains in part its loyalty to the hegemonic discourse that imagines Latin American traffickers as threats to national security. Narcos: Mexico was produced, among others, by José Padilha, director of one of the most violent apologies for anti-drug securitization in Brazilian cinema: the movie Tropa de élite (2007). This film, which tells the murderous epic of the Brazilian government's special forces in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, star the Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, who also played the Colombian drug dealer Pablo Escobar in the previous seasons of Narcos. This is how the bodies of the actors themselves become habitual signifiers of the "narco": rather than embody the trafficker Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, for example, the actor Joaquín Cosío played the violent thug Cochiloco in the hit movie El Infierno (2010) directed by Luis Estrada and together with the actor Damián Alcázar, who gave life to Colombian trafficker Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela for the third season of Narcos.
Biases and omissions

With a tone typical of fascist speeches, Narcos: Mexico narrator warns: "Traffickers are like cockroaches. You can poison them, crush them, shit, you can burn them. But they always come back. Usually stronger than ever." The so-called "cockroach effect" is a concept coined by the American political scientist Bruce Bagley that dehumanizes the traffickers and resignifies them as a plague that spreads throughout Latin America and that must be eradicated with military strategy. In his book Less Than Human, the philosopher David Livingstone places this practice in the genocidal governments that denigrate sectors of society to facilitate their extermination, as was the case of the German Nazis who called Jews "rats"; or the Hutus of Rwanda, who described the Tutsis, precisely, as "cockroaches." Thus, the series seems to affirm that the traffickers, the poor peasants who produce the drug and the politico-business class of the country are the "cockroaches" that the DEA and the US military power must fight in the name of their national security.
On the contrary, the friendly and transparent face of actor Michael Peña, in the role of Camarena, communicates to us the courage and recklessness of a US agent willing to do anything to stop the evil and corruption in Mexico. In an interview with Carmen Aristegui, actor Diego Luna affirms that the series does not divide Mexico between good and bad, but shows "a business in which everyone participated." But the series does discriminate between good Americans and bad Mexicans even bordering on xenophobia and racism. In the last chapter of the season, the narrator reveals himself as the leader of a group of DEA agents -all white men- amassing an arsenal of contraband to begin a "war" against Mexican narcos in Mexican territory to avenge Camarena's death: "Now it's our turn," announces the narrator.
It is even more significant to examine what the series deliberately omits. Since the 1990s, renowned journalists and scholars in Mexico and the United States have denounced the influence of the CIA and the US federal government in the planning, torture and murder of Camarena. With "Operation Legend," an investigation into the crime ordered by the DEA itself, it has been established, contrary to the more widespread opinion and the one reproduced in Narcos: Mexico, that Camarena was not killed in revenge for the seizures of marijuana at the Buffalo ranch. In fact, neither Camarena nor the DEA office in Guadalajara contributed information that would lead to that operation.
The witnesses of the crime
The head of that operation, Hector Berrellez, and the former DEA director in El Paso, Texas, Phil Jordan, declared in October 2013 to Proceso magazine and the US news network Fox News that Camarena was killed on orders from agents and CIA contractors supported by Mexican traffickers in the context of the fight against communism in Latin America during the last years of the Cold War. But the CIA's links with Mexican traffickers to finance the counter-guerrillas in Central America were pointed out since 1992 by researchers Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall in their book Cocaine Politics. The authors recalls that although the DFS "centralized and rationalized (the) operations" of the Mexican traffickers, who also carried official IDs of the agency, the CIA provided them with the international protection needed to sabotage the DEA's progress in Mexico when they obstructed covert operations. While the US Congress had suspended its support for President Reagan in his anti-communist crusade, the so-called "chief" of the Guadalajara cartel, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, contributed money and weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua, while Caro Quintero even lent the CIA a ranch where they trained the guerrillas. Newsweek magazine published in 1985 that the "chief of cocaine industry leaders in Mexico" was not Felix Gallardo, as Narcos: Mexico states, but Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros, a Honduran trafficker and owner of the airline SETCO, who was carrying money, weapons and drugs for the guerrillas in Nicaragua between 1983 and 1985, all with knowledge and acquiescence of the CIA. This was corroborated in an investigation ordered by the US Congress led by then-Senator John Kerry. It establishes the involvement of traffickers in US operations to finance counterinsurgency in Nicaragua. Even payments were issued directly from the State Department to several of these traffickers even though they had already been prosecuted. In the series, however, Felix Gallardo transports arms to Nicaragua only once, and without further explanation, his encounter with someone who seems to be a CIA agent is not repeated. And although Berrellez and Jordan maintain that one of the US pilots employed by the CIA was the one who took Caro Quintero from Mexico to Costa Rica, in the series it's only the Mexican authorities who let him flee in the face of the frustrated presence of Camarena and the DEA agents.

The real motive for Camarena's crime, according to statements by Berrellez and Jordan, was because it upset the interests of US anti-communist policy by undermining the operations of Mexican traffickers who collaborated with the guerrillas. Different witnesses affirm that in the house where the DEA agent was tortured were: the Mexican officials Manuel Bartlett Díaz, then Secretary of the Interior; Gen. Juan Arévalo Gardoqui, Secretary of Defense, and Miguel Aldana, head of Interpol in Mexico; also the Honduran Matta Ballesteros and the Cuban-American Felix Ismael El Gato Rodriguez, colonel of the US Army and CIA agent who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion and in the execution of the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara in Bolivia.
In the series, Matta Ballesteros appears in several episodes, but there is no talk of his relationship with the CIA. The name Colonel Felix Rodriguez is not even mentioned. And although in the series the calculating Félix Gallardo decides the fate of Camarena, according to the testimony of another CIA agent (who also operated in the DFS), the Mexican traffickers did not even fully understand the situation in which they found themselves in. Meanwhile Fonseca Carrillo was certain that they would only interrogate Camarena but they would not kill him. The DEA investigation revealed that Caro Quintero was manipulated into believing that Camarena had betrayed him with his investigations even after accepting a $ 4 million bribe that was actually intercepted by the Mexican Federal Judicial Police. According to Berrellez, the CIA operators recorded the interrogation and torture sessions of Camarena; in Narcos: Mexico those recordings are made by Mexican traffickers and instead of incriminating the CIA they only mention Mexican politicians and businessmen involved in drug trafficking. At the end of the season, Narcos refused to explore the paradox involved in the arrest and imprisonment of Mexican traffickers despite the corrupt Mexican political system, while then President George W. Bush pardoned almost all the military involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in 1992.
The "narrative licenses"
Beyond crime, Narcos: Mexico ignored the fact that the Camarena political scandal favored US hegemony in Mexico. As noted by political scientist Arturo Santa Cruz, the US government took advantage of the event to generate a paradigm shift around the alleged fight against drugs. With pressure from the binational scandal, President Miguel de la Madrid ordered the closure of the DFS on November 29, 1985, nine months after Camarena's abduction. In 1986 the US Congress approved a punitive Anti-Drug Law that accompanied the controversial annual "certification" process that has since evaluated the anti-drug policy of Latin American countries. Then, in April of that same year, President Ronald Reagan signed the National Security Directive 221, which designated drug trafficking, for the first time in its history, as a threat to national security. "The implication was clear," warns Santa Cruz, "Mexico, as the source of narcotics, became a threat to the national security of the United States." This new paradigm would no longer appeal to Mexican traffickers as undercover operators of US foreign policy, but would make them the new enemy of the security rationality in the neoliberal era. Thus, the strategy of militarization that has triggered eight times more murders in Mexico than during the military dictatorships of Argentina and Chile together is justified.

It will be refuted that the accusations about the involvement of the CIA in Camarena's murder have not been proven beyond the statements of witnesses and ex-DEA agents, but Narcos: Mexico does not hesitate to use decidedly false information such as the alleged participation of Camarena in the seizures of drugs at the El Búfalo ranch, or even macho fantasies that border on misogyny, such as the voluptuous fictional character of Isabella Bautista (Teresa Ruiz) who refers to La Reina del Sur, the unlikely trafficker imagined by the Spanish novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte.
In this way, the narrative licenses only serve in the series to accentuate the political and social degradation in Mexico, but never to accuse the pernicious presence of the CIA in Mexico. I will then point out that the information I quote is not available to a non-specialized audience, but a quick Google search will remind us that even Fox News, the most conservative and reactionary chain in the United States, dared to report on the probable responsibility of the CIA in the Camarena case more than five years ago. I will be told, finally, that this is one among so many series whose primary objective is entertainment. But Narcos: Mexico is one of the most visible cultural objects on drug trafficking in the world thanks to the success of Netflix, which to date has more than 130 million subscribers that generate 14.9 billion dollars per year. The company has so far allocated 18.6 billion dollars for the production of content, a figure higher than that of television producers such as Disney, HBO and NBC Universal. An audience study of the first seasons of Narcos found that both the US and Colombian public viewed the series to "obtain information on violence, police investigations and victims,"justifying the use of explicit violence "to represent the reality of what really happened."
The colonialist mentality

In his famous book The Wretched of the Earth, the philosopher Frantz Fanon explains that, faced with the lack of an industry of its own, the colonized bourgeois class of Latin America functions as the mediating agent of the colonial powers, allowing the plundering of their natural resources and the widespread exploitation of its population. The local intellectual can contribute to the decolonizing cause, says Fanon, when he begins "producing work with the oppressor in his mind ... but gradually changes to address his people." This process of intellectual independence is still far from occurring in the field of Mexican cultural production. Without detracting from the value of their work, it is necessary to point out that even politically-motivated actors such as Diego Luna acted uncritically to dramatize a series that criminalizes, not without reason, the Mexican political system, but at the same time exonerates the US government of its historical responsibility in the drug trade that he claims to denounce. The equally politicized filmmakers Amat Escalante and Alonso Ruizpalacios - directors of important films such as Heli (2013) and Güeros (2014) - directed two chapters of Narcos: Mexico each. With them, our best actors and directors have collaborated so far as mediators of the dominant imaginary content that from the United States tells our story with the mentality of imperial power that has also determined our violent militarization policy. As our governing class is incapable of articulating a government policy independent of US prohibitionism and securitarism, our intellectual class has not been able to imagine the "narco" outside of its national security discourse. To overcome this impasse, an intellectual will is necessary to think critically about our immediate past without fear of contradicting the dominant hegemony. It will be the moment when, as Fanon wanted, we finally renounce the oppressor's mentality and begin together to tell our story between and for ourselves.