To Die in Mexico

To Die in Mexico
Dispatches from Inside the Drug War

Interview on Democracy Now
Nov 13, 2014

"Amidst outrage in Mexico over the disappearance of 43 students, Democracy Now interviews John Gibler about the U.S. role in the country's violence. According to the Center for International Policy, the United States has spent approximately $3 billion to fund the so-called war on drugs in Mexico. Since the war on drugs began under President Felipe Calderón in 2006, more than 100,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence. U.S. support includes $2.4 billion in taxpayer funds through the Merida Initiative, launched as a three-year aid program for Mexican security forces under the administration of George W. Bush. The Obama administration has extended the Merida Initiative 'indefinitely.'"

- Amy Goodman, Democracy Now

Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies

"What is groundbreaking about his book is his presentation in English of so many firsthand accounts that are typically available only in Spanish. News reports in the English-language media typically misrepresent Mexico as a 'drug nation' while keeping silent about the impact on victims and about who consumes the drugs. By presenting Mexican voices in English, Gibler allows us to see the dignity and humanity of those who are caught up in this tragic 'war.'"

—Maria Teresa Vazquez Castillo

Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

"Not surprisingly given his own position as a reporter covering the drug war, Gibler pays particular attention to the critical role that journalists are playing in the conflict. Many have died for their courage: since 2000, more than 70 journalists have been murdered, while 15 others have disappeared in the past six years. . . Gibler's book is valuable for its ability to capture this unfolding nightmare in words."

Nacla Report on the Americas

"The historical context provided in 'To Die in Mexico' is essential for understanding the current drug war in Mexico. Gibler covers the political, social, and economic factors that have contributed to the violence, convincingly making the case that 'absolute prohibition is legislated death.' Yet the true lifeblood of the book is the personal stories that Gibler tells through his interviews. Despite its title and thorough grounding in the disturbing reality of Mexico's narco-violence, 'To Die in Mexico' is focused on life—the lives of Mexicans who have lost loved ones, the journalists who cover the drug war in spite of its dangers, and even the lives of the dead, who would otherwise remain anonymous."

—Anila Churi

The Latin American Review of Books

"Gibler provides a fascinating and detailed insight into the history of both drug use in the US and the 'war on drugs' unleashed by Ronald Reagan through the very plausible – but radical – lens of social control. . . . Throughout this short but powerful book, Gibler accompanies journalists riding the grim carousel of death on Mexico's streets, exploring the realities of a profession under siege in states such as Sinaloa and just how they cover the drugs war."

—Gavin O’Toole

Political Perspectives on 09/21/11
Sep 21, 2011

"John Gibler's new book, To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War, is a shocking and fast paced account of Mexico’s bloody Drug War, told from those on the ground floor. Gibler travels the plazas now being fought over or completely controlled with impunity by Mexico’s violent drug cartels. He captures the stories told by families who have lost loved ones to the war on the streets; journalists who barely escape assassination, convicted traffickers, government officials and those risking their lives to bring about some kind of real change."

- Carlos Chavez

Iberoamericana, Vol. 11, Issue 43

"The American journalist John Gibler has written a book about the Mexico 'below.' His thesis reflects the division of the nation, in which the majority of Mexican people is still fighting for more welfare, equality and respect against the ruling elites."

- Thomas Cieslik

Fellowship of Reconciliation

"Gibler's reporting is vivid and personal. But he's done his homework on the drug war, and mixes stories with analysis of the global economy of illegal drugs, and the ways that Mexico's state is historically and currently part of the trade . . . As the Obama administration continues the failed militarized drug policy of previous governments, and Mexico's people die with no respite, To Die in Mexico is a compelling and timely read."

The Erowid Review

"This short but unforgettable book shocks, disgusts, saddens, and eventually enrages the reader. Gibler's narrative provides us with in-your-face proof of that which many already know deep inside but some don’t want us to remember . . . One cannot read this account and think that the war on drugs is much more than a sick criminal scam set up by entrenched interests motivated by power and greed. And power and greed are winning. . . . Yet the book ends on a note of hope."

Bloomsbury Review

"The days of 'cool and groovy' drug use are over, and Gibler explains in detail how a binational legalization of these drugs might be the only way out."

Upside Down World

"Drawing upon interviews from various parts of Mexico, an eclectic reading list, and an array of YouTube videos, To Die in Mexico is a must read for anyone looking for a clear headed overview of Mexico today. No matter how gruesome it may appear, let it be clear: looking away is not an option."

TK Reviews

"Gibler's narrative never seems to take a breath. His writing is exact and fluid, but careful never to exploit the accounts of murder and kidnapping. He has a mission after all: Gibler sees this as a senseless war that can be won if only people can openly speak about those committing crimes without fear of retribution. We can only hope this is the beginning of a change in this bloody tide."

Drug War Chronicle

"Gibler's taut prose, keen eye, carefully honed outrage, and willingness to actually do on-the-scene reporting bring the horrifying reality of Mexico's drug war to vivid light."

San Antonio Express-News

"While these might be difficult pills to swallow, few will dispute the authority of Gibler's reporting or the force of his reasoning. For anyone still trying to make sense of it all, To Die in Mexico, is a good place to begin."

Robert Birnbaum

"A brave and disturbing book, which with startling (that is, if you are still capable of being startled) clarity accounts for the death, havoc, corruption and destruction that flows from the 40 year old failed War on Drugs in the crucible of Mexico's northern borderlands. It's a shameful (if you are still capable of being shamed) history of American complicity in the rise of Mexican narco-traffickers, not to mention the American appetite for illegal (and legal) drugs that is a sufficient condition for this ongoing debacle."

Library Journal

"From its first shocking paragraph, this book takes the reader inside Mexico's drug war, a very real shooting battle involving rival gangs fighting to control hundreds of billions of dollars in product. And not only is the government unable to stop the war, in many cases, the government is part of it. To get the real story, journalist Gibler (Mexico Unconquered) hit the streets in some of the most dangerous Mexican cities and neighborhoods, speaking to reporters, photographers, kidnap victims, and the families of the murdered. The code of silence is difficult to break, since reporting on the drug cartels means almost certain death, often with impunity: only five percent of murders are investigated by the Mexican police. The problem is only growing, and the single thing likely to stop this juggernaut is drug legalization, which would make the trade less lucrative. But such a remedy isn't politic, and so the wars and the killings continue.

Verdict: This grim but important chronicle is an essential read for anyone interested in the real consequences of the war-on-drugs rhetoric."

Literal Magazine

"Just read To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War, an extraordinary and detailed account of the War on Drugs, its link to the illicit businesses of human and weapon trafficking, and the effects that these state of social disintegration has had on real people--the day-to-day victims of this senseless war. To Die in Mexico is a cruel, sad, chilling, tragic and often disturbing book but it is also a MUST read."

FDL Book Salon Welcomes John Gibler, To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War
Aug 6, 2011

"The book is a petite (in size) but muscular book of reportage mostly about the folks who see all this before almost anybody: the reporters and photographers in Chihuahua, Sinaloa and elsewhere."

- Sam Quinones, Firedoglake

Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Jul 17, 2011

Listen to John Gibler discuss the effects of the continuing violence in Mexico on the Cultural Baggage Radio Show.

- Dean Becker, Drug Truth Network

Letters and Politics
Jul 5, 2011

John Gibler speaks about the trials journalists face in Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico relationship influencing the ongoing Drug War.

- Mitch Jeserich, Letters and Politics

To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War
Jul 12, 2011

"John Gibler talked about the drug war in Mexico, which has claimed the lives of 34,000 Mexicans since 2006, and the involvement of the Mexican army and police in the drug trade. He responded to questions from members of the audience at Moe's Books in Berkeley, California."

- C-SPAN: Book TV

Behind the Mexican Drug war
Jun 21, 2011

"It's incredibly bloody -- and incredibly misunderstood. What has come to be known as the Mexican drug war, but would be better viewed as the US-Mexico drug trade, has claimed 40,000 lives since 2006, including those of many journalists. Mexico-based writer John Gibler talks about the politics and economics of an industry that involves enormous sums of money, territorial violence, mega-profits, and the collusion of governments and banks."

- Sasha Lilley, Against the Grain

John Gibler reads from To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War
Jun 15, 2011

"In conjunction with Global Exchange, John Gibler visited City Lights Bookstore on June 15th, 2011 to read and talk about his new book, To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War."

- City Lights

To Live and Die in Mexico: PW Talks with John Gibler
Jun 1, 2011

"Gibler, a San Francisco-based journalist, reports from the front lines of the drug war in To Die in Mexico. He risked his own life to bring readers the stories of communities struggling to survive in a land terrorized by violence and where the authorities are complicit in—and profiting from—the chaos."

- Liza Monroy, Publishers Weekly

Latin Waves Interviews John Gibler
Jan 3, 2011
- Latin Waves,

Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Gibler (Mexico Unconquered) documents Mexico's drug war, its enormous profits and grievous human costs, in taut prose and harrowing detail."

Kirkus Reviews

"Gibler argues passionately to undercut this 'case study in failure.' The drug barons are only getting richer, the murders mount and the police and military repression expand as 'illegality increases the value of the commodity.' With legality, both U.S. and Mexican society could address real issues of substance abuse through education and public-health initiatives. A visceral, immediate and reasonable argument."