On a typical November evening in Amsterdam we meet Anabel Hernandez, an investigative journalist and writer from Mexico. As well as writing for newspapers and magazines, she is author of Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and Their Godfathers where she exposes details of Mexico’s drug cartels.
By: Sophia Taha
Anabel lives in Mexico City and has spent 5 years investigating drug cartels and organized crime. She conducted an in-depth investigation and her work, backed up with documents, testimonials, and files revealed amongst other facts that the Chief of Police and Secretary of Security were working for the cartels. Similarly, the federal police protect international airports and are directly involved in the traffic of money and drugs.
As a result of her research Anabel now believes that these officials are in fact more dangerous than the cartels. With the cartels everyone knows who they are, but the government officials have the power to operate with both anonymity and impunity.
She tells us of how the drug cartels are under the protection of the government and that ‘each cartel has a piece of the cake’ with their own territories. This is to discourage fighting amongst themselves. Initially the government tried to control the drug cartels but now the cartels control the government.
She tells us that ‘democracy in Mexico doesn’t exist’ and that the violence that journalists suffer is a mere example of what everyone else is suffering. In the last 6 years 80,000 people have been murdered by drug cartels and 25,000 people have been ‘disappeared’. Anabel says that ‘no one is safe in Mexico’.
Anabel has two children. When asked if she is scared for them she answers, ‘yes, all the time’ but that ‘We [journalists] live like everyone, under the violence’. She goes on to say that ‘real life can be very difficult, a death threat on twitter is laughable in comparison to real, live threats from police.’
Her family were attacked at a family gathering. It was a warning designed to show her, if she didn’t care about her own life, she should care about the lives of her family. She says ‘I have to live with that guilt; my job causes danger to my family…I have been paying a very high price to announce all of this, I have received threats from police but I decided to speak out anyway’.
She is asked by the audience, ‘Annabel, where is the hope?’ Her answer isn’t one of hope. Instead she explains once again that ‘the power of the cartels is the money’, and that it needs to be confiscated but it will never happen. Illegal drugs are easily obtained everywhere and so cartels have money and connections everywhere. She stresses that buying drugs gives money to the cartels. This money is used to murder people; it funds other crimes too from child pornography to human trafficking to terrorism. Her research has shown her that the dirty money moves in every economy.
“[people think that]…what is going on in Mexico is far away and not my business…however it is everyone’s problem around the world….you are not as safe as you think, even here (in the Netherlands) the money of the cartels gives them power to corrupt everything…everyone who uses drugs, gets away with murder.”
One of the most poignant aspects of Anabel’s story is that it is not merely the tale of an individual being threatened but that in reality her story is ‘just a little example of how people in Mexico are suffering’. Anabel expresses a belief that through her work she may contribute to a small change in Mexican society – ‘good journalists can change the story of their country’. She stresses that although writing in Mexico is more dangerous than drug trafficking,; ‘ I have hope that good journalists will change the story of Mexico’.