El Sicario. Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin

El Sicario killed and tortured hundreds of people for a Mexican drug cartel. After years of debauchery, violence, and unquestioned obedience to the cartel bosses he finally couldn’t do it any more, became a Christian, and left the life knowing one false move means he will be their prey and that he and his family will be horribly tortured then killed.

Respected crime writers Molly Molly and Charled Bowden edited El Sicario. Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin. It consists of interviews with El Sicario (who is never named, “El Sicario” is Spanish for “the assassin.”) They let him speak in his own voice. He was a mid-level killer for a cartel.  The book is difficult to read for many reasons. The violence is appalling. But what is much worse is his matter-of-fact documenting of corruption at all levels of Mexican government and military.

One reason the cartels are so good at tracking and killing people is because their members were often trained at military and police academies in Mexico and the US. When they graduate, many go directly to work for cartels while others stay in law enforcement to act as eyes and ears for the cartels. El Sicario did most of his killing and torturing while a member of law enforcement.

More recently though, the cartels been recruiting from gangs like Mara Salvatrucha since fewer in Mexico go to police academies because they know they will be offered “our silver or our lead” by the cartels. Take our money or we kill you. That police academies have been almostly completely infiltrated by the cartels indicates a complete breakdown of law and order.

I lived in Los Angeles for a while and have no love of LAPD. But if a dead body appeared on my doorstep there I could call LAPD and know they’d handle it in a professional manner. In Juarez most people in a similar situation probably wouldn’t call the police for fear the police might well be the killers.

The corruption reaches the highest levels of governments and the cartels start corrupting children barely in their teens. By the time the children are 20, the cartel is their family, it’s all they know.

The turning point for El Sicario came when cartels began using women to carry drugs and kill. Up until then, women and children were off limit. But no more. Once women started being in the game then they also became targets to be kidnapped, tortured, raped, and killed. He says torturing men is bad enough but torturing women is far far worse. At about this time he stopped drinking and using drugs, found a church and Christians who helped him,and walked away from it all.

Now he lives in the United States as a fugitive. One cartel has a quarter million dollar contract on his head. Another cartel is trying to recruit him. He speaks as a free man and of his own free will – there are no charges against him. He is a lonely voice – no one with his background has ever come forward and talked. He is the future – there are thousands of men like him in Mexico and there will be more in other places. He is the truth no one wants to hear.