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21 March 2014

Mexican journalist shares perspective on Latin American drug wars

Students and faculty members alike gathered Thursday night at the College of Arts and Sciences Gallery across Pavia Garage to learn about the drug wars in Latin America.

Award-winning journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, who has extensively reported on the subject for publications such as the New Yorker and New York Review of Books, shared her conclusions about the paradox on the “War on Drugs.” The Center for the Humanities invited Guillermoprieto as part of the 2014 Stanford Distinguished Professors Series.

The paradox is that efforts to eliminate the drug wars have only led to an expansion of the drug cartels. She used maps throughout the presentation to demonstrate the expansion, beginning in Mexico and ending with an image of the entire world.

Guillermoprieto also provided a context to consider Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera, who is usually referred to by his nickname “El Chapo Guzman” (which translates in English to “Shorty Guzman”).

The 64-year-old reporter talked about the relationship between Guzman’s origins in Sinaloa, Mexico and the “worldwide problem” of the drug trade today. She showed that Guzman was responsible for trafficking drugs to areas as far as Africa, Australia and Southeast Asia.

“The drug trade is like the AIDS virus,” Guillermoprieto said.

Most of her reporting is based on “hearsay,” given that many Latin American state and law enforcement officials may be corrupted by the drug trade, affecting the validity of what they say.

Anne Cruz, a Spanish professor, nominated Guillermoprieto to the Stanford Professors Series. Cruz considers Guillermprieto “one of the true Latin American intellectuals.”

“As a journalist, she has made fact-finding one of her goals,” Cruz said. “But what she does with the information she gathers becomes, in her hands, a deeply philosophical view of the past and current crises that these countries seem always to be confronting.”

Students like sophomore Rachel Berquist did not expect how Guillermoprieto’s speech would unravel. Though she initially came to earn extra credit for her Spanish class, she felt that the lecture changed her outlook on Latin America.

“There’s another side to the story,” Berquist said. “I did not know much before.”

Guillermoprieto ended the lecture with the image of tennis shoes. In Mexico, having a pair of tennis shoes signals upward mobility. She wonders whether Guzman will only be left with a pair of tennis shoes, despite having been known as one of the richest men in Mexico.

For more information on future events hosted by the Center for the Humanities, visit humanities.miami.edu/calendar.

The Miami Hurricane also sat down with Guillermoprieto Thursday morning. Click here for the Q&A.