‘Sicario’ Lays Bare the Drug War’s Ugly Truth

By: Elena Toledo - @NenaToledo - Jan 7, 2016, 3:42 pm
"Medellín" es un exfiscal que al filo de la clandestinidad y la ley elimina a los más poderosos narcotráficantes. (sensacine)
“Medellín” is a former prosecutor who has no qualms about shooting down drug traffickers. (Sensacine)

EspañolIt never ceases to amaze me how Hollywood can get away with exposing the US government’s greatest violations on film. Sicario, the latest action-narco movie, is yet another sad example.

The backdrop is the US-Mexico border, which a billboard in the film written in Spanish declares a “no man’s land.” Cartels operate freely in northern Mexico, but the film focuses on how the US counter-narcotics apparatus also abuse its power.

We follow Kate, the main character played by Emily Blunt, an idealist FBI agent who joins an elite task force assembled to help fight the escalating drug war. Her mission is to eradicate the drug cartel responsible for murdering several members of her team.

She is soon confronted with ethical dilemmas, as her squad’s methods are far from the professionalism she has vowed to abide by throughout her career. Her new partners Ted (Jon Bernthal), Matt (Josh Brolin), and Alejandro (Benicio del Toro), a mysterious consultant with a questionable past, show her the ropes in this highly dangerous environment.

The team embark on an unofficial trip across the southern border to apprehend an important drug-cartel boss. Once in Mexico, the operation fails to go as planned when unexpected threats come lurking. Events quickly thrust Kate into a crossroads where she must abandon all her principles or risk dying.

The plot is quick-paced and doesn’t dwell on dialogue, revealing the darkest side of the war on drugs as it unravels: a lawless underworld that can be more violent than the constant infighting between cartels we see on the news.

[adrotate group=”7″]Sicario, which means hitman in Spanish, alludes to the fact that both sides of this war have set up a system of clandestine murder operations. Using the FBI and DEA as cover, officials become mere assassins for hire, who see no other means to solve the problem. “Judicial prosecution has changed nothing on the streets,” they argue.

Kate is the emotional character who reflects how several spectators view the crude plot’s cynicism. The impunity with which one country’s law imposes itself onto another goes beyond our wildest imaginations.

Sicario demonstrates that the war on drugs, instead of curbing substance abuse, is a criminal business in which “both sides” profit. They fight over money, territory, and political influence — all while countless innocents die.

The movie unfolds on the Mexican border, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been set in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, or any Latin American country that is on the “death corridor” toward the United States.

It should gives us pause that the largest consumer nation of drugs in the world also presents itself as the savior who will liberate other countries from their narcotics problems.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

Elena Toledo Elena Toledo

Educator by trade, social-media apprentice, activist for a democratic Honduras, and free thinker. Follow her on Twitter @NenaToledo.

Venezuela Needs the World’s Support, Now More than Ever

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Jan 7, 2016, 12:34 pm
The opposition majority in Congress announced they would pass a law to release Venezuela's political prisoners. (HispanTv

EspañolPressure from the international community was not what got the new Venezuelan Congress successfully installed on January 5. However, it cannot be denied that it was crucial to ensure the relatively peaceful transition. As Jesús Torrealba, the opposition coalition's spokesman, put it: "The people's civic duty, the army's commitment, and the international community made [this] possible." Foreign leaders have finally reversed their apathy toward the Nicolás Maduro administration over the past months, particularly since the December 6 legislative elections. Pressure coming from several countries has kept the Chavista regime from trampling on even more democratic principles. One day before the newly elected congressmen were sworn in, several European Union and Spanish lawmakers, as well as prominent Spanish politicians, penned a manifesto supporting Venezuelan democracy and denouncing the ruling party's "coup attempt." In short, the previous Chavista majority illegally appointed 13 Supreme Court justices at the last minute, who in turn summarily issued a ruling to invalidate four elected congressmen, in a attempt to prevent the opposition from attaining an absolute majority in the new Congress. A major demonstration of institutional support came from the US Justice Department: "We remain concerned by the controversy surrounding the seating of some elected representatives and call for a resolution of this dispute in manner that is transparent and reflects the preferences of the Venezuelan voters." Despite Maduro's usual diatribe and accusations of imperialist interventionism, the public statement from the US government, which is currently investigating several Chavista officials for drug trafficking and money laundering, got the president to back off. No less important were the press releases from the Costa Rican and Brazilian Foreign Affairs ministries. The latter, a longtime Chavista ally, was particularly harsh: "There is no place in South America in the 21st-century for political solutions outside institutions and the most absolute respect for democracy and the rule of law." As the Spanish daily El País pointed out: "The Brazilian wording is unequivocally a criticism of Chavismo's attempt to interrupt the seating of opposition congressmen via the judiciary, as well as other moves, such as the creation of a parallel Congress." [adrotate group="8"]Nevertheless, the presence of several international actors, foreign congressmen, and journalists during the swearing in was decisive. They all witnessed — including former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana and the Mexican Senate's president — how the Chavista factions insulted and aggressed against the elected opposition members. Pastrana even publicly urged President Maduro to respect the will of the people. So far, the international community's response and support of Venezuelan democracy has been significant and encouraging, even if we must note that this was not at all the case during the late President Hugo Chávez's term. But from now on, they must press even harder, because with this new Congress, an irreversible transition toward democracy has begun. But it won't be easy. The new National Assembly speaker, Henry Ramos Allup, assured that the legislative branch will seek to lawfully oust President Maduro within the next six months. Surely, the Chavista government won't go down without a fight — even a violent one — by rallying the ministries, state offices, governorships, and mayoralties that it still controls. To this we can add a deepening socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis to an already explosive mix. More than ever, Venezuela needs the world's solidarity and support: from governments, parliaments, political parties, multilateral bodies, and NGOs, as well as from the free press. The circumstances inside and outside Venezuela have changed, and the international community, especially within Latin America, must be steadfast in the defense of cherished democratic values. Translated by Daniel Duarte.

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