Category Archives: Law and Order

The World of Sicario – Part 2

The World of Sicario – Part 2

Sicario (/si.ˈka.ɾjo/) – Spanish – A hired hitman or assassin, commonly used in Latin America

In the hit movie, Sicario, the world of Mexican drug cartels is brought into sharp and brutal focus. Moving across the Mexico-US border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico the viewer sees the violence of the cartels, the poverty of those trapped in this violent cycle and the complex geopolitics at work in the region.

The world of Sicario is Mexico at its worst, but how close does it come to the reality?

Borders and Barrios

Sicario focuses on the drug cartels and the violence that has been caused by their turf war, however, underlying the movie are some of the biggest issues facing both USA and Mexico; immigration, poverty and one of the world’s most contested borders. It is the border that acts as the central point around which the plotline navigates itself.

The US-Mexican border is one of the longest land borders in the world and it is one of the few that separates a world-leading developed economy and a ‘developing market’. These circumstances have created a unique set of social and political issues that exacerbate the cartel induced violence that Sicario explores.

The border is both closely controlled and closely monitored and, as a result, it has created a line between the haves and the have-nots. On one side of the border is the world’s largest economy where the persistent concept of the American Dream continues to draw immigrants to the country, and on the other side is a nation where poverty is commonplace and the social and political problems have caused thousands of migrant to rush northwards. This desperation can force many to resort to chasing illegal routes into America and these routes are inevitably controlled by the drug cartels, such as the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels.

Sicario
(Above: The US-Mexican Border Wall that acts as a divisive barrier between the two nations)

The mass migration of Mexicans northwards has provided couriers for the cartels, a source of income and a distraction, behind which the cartels have built the drugs trade. Whilst the attention is drawn towards those trying to make a new life in America, the cartels are finding new ways to reach their customers across the border.

As a result of the mass migration the US government constructed a barrier along the length of the border. This high wall is one of the most securitised borders in the world today and it has created a division across the region. It is a statement that America has possession and control over the border. It argues that America needs to be protected from the ‘threat’ of Mexico and that the people of Mexico are somehow ‘lesser’.

The border disenfranchises Mexicans. It makes them pawns in the geopolitical game of America and it forces those, like the illegal immigrants and the cartels, to subvert the legal procedures and explore alternative routes into the USA. It has created a business  out of the need to get across the border.

Sicario
(Above: An inmate and member of Pure Mexican Race (PRM) gang, one of the many caused by the poverty of Mexico. Inmates are segregated by gang affiliation to reduce violence)

Both the cinematography within Sicario and the main narrative explore the relationship between American and Mexico across the border. The sweeping shots of the border shows the physically imposing structure of the barrier complex, but it is the narrative themes that explore the barrier psyche. Despite the fact that the USA has no jurisdiction across the border it does not stop the central characters from carrying out their mission in Mexico and when these same characters talk about or view Ciudad Juarez they talk of the threat. This barrier says two things by America about Mexico. Firstly, ‘we’ are in charge and we run this border. Secondly, this side of the border is safe and the other side, in Ciudad Juarez, is dangerous and unstable.

Throughout Sicario there are touches of the poverty that drives the drug trade and makes many resort to corruption or employment by the cartels. There is an understanding of the complex geopolitical relationships that exist between the two nations and the way America has sought to control this border region.

Although it is not a film about the border controls or illegal immigration, or indeed the poverty that characterises so much of Mexico, behind all the action scenes and set-piece gun fights is the political reality of life on the borders and in the barrios. This reality is what drives the events in Sicario and in modern Mexico drives the drug trade and drug cartels.

By Peter Banham

The World of Sicario – Part 1

The World of Sicario – Part 1

In the hit movie, Sicario, the world of Mexican drug cartels is brought into sharp and brutal focus. Moving across the Mexico-US border between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico the viewer sees the violence of the cartels, the poverty of those trapped in this violent cycle and the complex geopolitics at work in the region. The world of Sicario is Mexico at its worst, but how close does it come to the reality? Continue Reading

The Legacy of Magna Carta

The Legacy of Magna Carta

The Magna Carta and the Origins of British Democracy 800 years ago a document was written, signed and reproduced across England. It was a document that changed the very nature of kingship, political authority and the interrelationship between monarchs and the people throughout the British Isles. Forged out of the great dissatisfaction of the English… Continue Reading

‘Je Suis Charlie’ – Our Fight For Freedom

‘Je Suis Charlie’ – Our Fight For Freedom

The attacks on Charlie Hebdo have demostrated the lengths many will go to suppress our right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These values are fundamental to the functioning of our society and if we allow violent intimidation to censor us then there will be little future for a progressive and liberal society. Continue Reading

If We Burn, You Burn With Us…

If We Burn, You Burn With Us…

Revolution is one of the most overused and controversial words in politics. It has been used to inspire a population, condemn the actions of a minority and define the change that upended society. They have been popular uprisings and violence anarchy, but is there a common nature that unites revolution and how is it that revolutions are seen differently in the course of history. Continue Reading

Why China Won’t Allow Occupy Central To Succeed

Why China Won’t Allow Occupy Central To Succeed

Occupy Central is a powerful movement, who have achieved support from across the world, however, it will have an uphill climb against the authority of the Chinese state. The government will ensure that stability is maintained across its territories and no popular political movements are allowed to undermine the government. Continue Reading

Beyond the Hotel – Exposing Cambodia’s Politics

Beyond the Hotel – Exposing Cambodia’s Politics

Cambodia is a democracy with little evidence of any democratic principles at work and a leader whose rise to power, to overthrow a vicious dictator, has led to his continued control of the state for 30 years. But, Cambodia has used tourism to mask the political realities and unless the visitors step out beyond the hotel, the regime will go unquestioned and unseen. Continue Reading

Iraq Three Ways – Iraq’s Sectarian Splits

Iraq Three Ways – Iraq’s Sectarian Splits

Iraq is one of the world’s oldest nations. It was here that civilisation first emerged around the shores of the Tigris and, as such, it is in Iraq that some of the world’s oldest divisions occur. These divisions are blighting the modern state, causing a sectarian conflict that has the potential to rip apart the Iraqi state and create, in its wake, three very different and distinct states. Continue Reading

Is Venezuela on Rocky Ground?

Is Venezuela on Rocky Ground?

Venezuela is on rocky ground. The nation’s stability is wearing increasingly thin and the protests show little sign of slowing down. The world is distracted by events elsewhere around the world and there is a risk that unless something changes we risk seeing another country descend into chaos whilst the international community stands by. Continue Reading

‘Russian Bear Tactics’: How Russia Continues to Dominate the East

‘Russian Bear Tactics’: How Russia Continues to Dominate the East

Ever since the fall of Communism Russia has worked hard to determine how it fits into a world system where it is no longer a global superpower. The answer has been to assert regional dominance on the nations that broke away from the control of the USSR in the 1990’s. From Eastern Europe through to Central Asia nations have spent twenty years battling against Russian overtures to influence their governments. Continue Reading

Do the Turkish Protests Symbolise a New Wave of Middle Eastern Uprisings?

Do the Turkish Protests Symbolise a New Wave of Middle Eastern Uprisings?

The protests in Istanbul this week have taken the country by surprise. What had started out a protest against government building plans has morphed into a much wider and more extreme protest against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Middle East has a dangerous track records, in recent years, of protests escalating and becoming far greater than they had ever intended. What we are unclear about is whether these protests will develop in the same way. Continue Reading

How Will the PKK Withdrawal Affect Turkey and the Region?

How Will the PKK Withdrawal Affect Turkey and the Region?

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series A 'New' Turkey

It has been widely reported this week that the PKK (Kurdish Worker’s Party) has begun a withdrawal from Turkey following a ceasefire. Like the Northern Ireland conflict in Great Britain or the Basque Insurgency in Spain the Kurdish conflict has been a barrier to Turkey’s progression to a peaceful state. But what impact will this movement have on Turkey, Iraq and the wider region? Continue Reading

South Africa’s Crime Problem: A Look Behind the Rainbow Nation

South Africa’s Crime Problem: A Look Behind the Rainbow Nation

South Africa gets portrayed as one of the most advanced nations in Africa. It is seen as an economic and social beacon; one promoting economic growth and political freedom. But behind this veneer South Africa has deep ingrained social problems. Crime, in particular violent crime, is highly prevalent in this nation. Continue Reading

Where the Media has Little Say: Eritrea’s Censorship Issue

Where the Media has Little Say: Eritrea’s Censorship Issue

The organisation Reporters Without Borders compiles an annual list of nations that rates nations by their levels of press freedom. Eritrea is bottom of this repeatedly and has been labelled the most heavily censored nation in the world. But what is behind this level of control and what society has this created in East Africa? Continue Reading

A Country You Know Little About…But Should (Part 1): Equatorial Guinea

A Country You Know Little About…But Should (Part 1): Equatorial Guinea

African discourse tends to focus on the ‘big nations’, particularly where there has been British or French colonial legacy and in doing so it leaves out other nations that are actually critically important and some of the most interesting contemporary nations in the world. One such nation is Equatorial Guinea. Continue Reading

Are Mali’s Neighbours Really at Threat?

Are Mali’s Neighbours Really at Threat?

The recent conflict in Mali has highlighted to the world the rising power of Islamist groups, such as Ansar Dine and AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), in the region and the governments of the West have been increasingly concerned that this could open a new front in the fight against religious extremism. What politicians have most worries about, is that the threat in Mali could spread around the region. Continue Reading

The Unrecognised World: Scotland and Others Looking for Independence

The Unrecognised World: Scotland and Others Looking for Independence

This week confirmation of a referendum in Scotland, that would determine if this region of the United Kingdom will become an independent state, was announced. What is the basis behind this drive for Scottish independence and what characteristics in this campaign differ from other independence movements, like that of Kosovo? Continue Reading