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Wed May 16, 2018, 04:00 PM

"The Making of a Massacre" Explores the D.E.A.'s Role in a Mexican Tragedy

By Sarah LarsonMay 15, 2018

The Making of a Massacre,” a new investigative podcast from Audible and ProPublica, is a two-hour dramatic exploration of a 2011 massacre in Allende, Mexico, reported and narrated by Ginger Thompson. “There’s no missing the signs that something unspeakable happened in Allende,” she says in the first episode. “People were murdered here. Gunmen from one of the most violent drug-trafficking organizations in the world swept through this little town like a flash flood.” We hear a translated account: “They broke into houses. They looted them and burned them. Afterward, they kidnapped the people who lived in those houses and took them to a ranch just outside of Allende.” Dozens were killed and their bodies were burned. Thompson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is an investigative reporter at ProPublica and a former Mexico City bureau chief for the Times; she grew up on the border and has been writing about Mexico for decades. Cartel-related massacres are “mind-numbingly common,” she says. But this story is different: this massacre, she learns, had been set off by the United States. “It’s a story that’s never been told before,” Thompson tells us. “And it starts here.”

This is a classic podcast beginning—surprising, vivid, urgent, portending lessons about human folly and government error. We’re eager to hear the rest. Then the podcast proceeds in a way that alternately fulfills our expectations and unsettles them, because of the ways in which it dramatizes the content. In the course of its five ambitious episodes, “Making a Massacre” employs both NPR-type narrative audio and a dramatic style that evokes Hollywood: the investigative reporting is dramatized not just with music and sound design but with performances by the film and TV actors Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, Alana de la Garza, Clifton Collins, Jr., and Snow Tha Product, who deliver interviewees’ words, translated from the Spanish. Trejo also narrates the episodes’ titles—“Chapter 1: The Takeover”—with a husky-voiced gravitas that suggests a horror-movie trailer. Then we hear friendly ranchera music, horses’ hooves, and an introduction to Allende before the massacre, and we’re back in the familiar genre of narrative nonfiction, getting to know our setting. Throughout, the tone switches back and forth, sometimes easily, sometimes less so.

Allende is a ranching town of twenty-three thousand people in the state of Coahuila, a forty-minute drive from Eagle Pass, Texas; it’s home to farmers, teachers, professionals with large houses. It has an annual equestrian parade and rodeo. Thompson narrates in a kindly tone that sounds a bit slowed down for our benefit, and she takes a tour of Allende with the town’s former property assessor, a beekeeper who rents his bees out to melon farmers. He takes her on what he calls, with a nervous laugh, a “narco tour.” They pass dozens of ruined houses, some mini-mansions. “Whatever walls were left standing had holes big enough to shoot basketballs through them,” Thompson says. The beekeeper is willing to drive by but not to stop. “It was as if he was afraid the people who had knocked the houses down seven years ago were still watching,” she says.

The people responsible are the Zetas, a powerful drug-smuggling cartel. Before the Zetas, there was smuggling in Allende—but the local kingpin respected society and society respected him, and life proceeded mostly peacefully. Then he was murdered. The Zetas, led by two brothers, Miguel and Omar Treviño, known as Forty and Forty-two, both moved to Allende and quickly established dominance. The Zetas were known for their flouting of norms and for their spectacular violence—beheadings, dissolving bodies in acid—and ambition: they wanted to rule not just the drug trade but the country. (Both brothers are now in prison.) “The Making of a Massacre” deftly illustrates how the Zetas took power: through violence; by bribing and intimidating government agencies; and, insidiously, by establishing personal ties. An Allende veterinarian memorably describes agreeing to provide veterinary care to a dog belonging to the young son of a cartel member. Soon, locals and cartel are intertwined. When the D.E.A. gets coveted intelligence on the Zetas through cartel operatives and makes a “deadly miscalculation”—sharing the information with Mexican authorities—shocking cruelty ensues. Allende’s townspeople, many unrelated to the drug trade, are its victims. The massacre, its aftermath, and its implications are examined in the second half of the series.


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Reply "The Making of a Massacre" Explores the D.E.A.'s Role in a Mexican Tragedy (Original post)
Judi Lynn May 2018 OP
Uncle Joe May 2018 #1

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Thu May 17, 2018, 07:56 AM

1. Kicked and recommended.

Thanks for the thread Judi Lynn

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