Mr Malcolm Beith, what is your opinion concerning the drug trade from Mexico into the U.S.? Is it just the cartels, or is something else going on as well?
There is more than just cartels. We hear about cartels, but the truth is that these groups are more like organizations, with various groups and "cells" operating within. They engage in everything from arms smuggling to human trafficking to piracy.
During your stay in narcos territory, what impresions did you get of the local population? Do they live in a reign of fear?
Locals in areas like Sinaloa live in a precarious situation. They recognize that the narcos rule, and therefore they follow their law. Some openly admire them. But most people also know that if there were good government, they would prefer that. So it is more a matter of siding with whoever is in charge at that moment than actually thinking about whether or not they like living under organized crime. And yes, some people live in complete fear. They don't know what will happen next, and certainly don't know whether they will be killed or not. They basically try to lay low and get on with their lives and stay out of the narcos' way.
Concerning the massive deployment of the military along the borders, do you believe that is an adequate response to the drugs/violence issue?
Using the military is not enough, nor will it solve the larger problem, but it is necessary (in my opinion) right now because it is the only entity that has a chance to quell the violence.
Who is actually in command of the states of northern Mexico, particularly those on the border with the U.S.?
The authorities are in command. There is no doubt about that. But, drug trafficking organizations run the other segment of society, the underworld, and they get away with it. So one should probably say that there are pockets of lawlessness all along the northern border.
Did you ever meet any cartel chiefs in person? What are they like? What personality/temperament do they have? Above all: what do they want?
I did not have the opportunity to meet any cartel chiefs. They are said to be very business-like. Very professional. Some of them are drug users though, and ego-maniacs. The most important thing to remember is not to romanticize them. They are not sombrero-wearing thugs with pistols who ride through horses in the mountains of Mexico. They are calculating businesspeople, some of them only in their 30s, who know that if the US and Western Europe demand drugs, the Mexican cartels will supply them.
Do you believe the cartels have contacts with the U.S. and Mexican security forces? What part does corruption play in this story?
Corruption is a huge factor in the cartels' success. Chapo Guzman has corrupted his way through all levels of the Mexican authorities. There have been cases of corruption of US agents too. This is a very serious problem - the most serious problem, in fact. Without corruption, the Mexican cartels would have much less success.
Have you ever received threats because of your work as a journalist? And how are journalists regarded in that part of Mexico?
I have received what I call light threats - guns pointed at me, people telling me to leave right away - but nothing serious (like a severed head or a letter warning me to back off.) That said, nearly 50 Mexican journalists have died since 2000, trying to investigate organized crime. These are the heroes, these are young people trying to make their country better, to improve its democracy. They should be treated as heroes, and the government needs to do more to protect their right to investigate organized crime.
Why did you feel your experience should be told in a book?
I tried not to tell much of my own experiences, because I think the experiences of the characters in the book are far more important. What is happening in Mexico is tragic, and I am proud to be able to help tell the story to people in other parts of the world, so that they are more aware of the situation.
Who is this book especially addressed to?
The book is for people who want to make sense of what is happening in Mexico today, of how organized crime in their own country might be connected to Mexico, how their drug use or that of their friends has an effect on the people of Mexico. I hope it raises some awareness of what is going on there, and how we all have an effect through our own actions.