First published on 8 Jun 2011. Updated on 13 Jul 2011.
Molly Molloy well remembers the first time she met El Sicario – a notorious Mexican underworld assassin and torturer with dozens of murders on his hands. “I was apprehensive at first to meet him, but actually being around him wasn’t really frightening," she explains. "He doesn’t give off the impression of being crazy or insane in any way; he’s a very cold and steady person in fact.” Molloy had been brought in by American journalist Charles Bowden to help translate the man’s recollections for an article in Harpers magazine.
Shortly after Bowden published the article, James Franco Rossi, an Italian documentary filmmaker, contacted Bowden and Molloy to approach El Sicario about filming his story. With an excess of footage and no medium in which to display it, Molloy and Bowden made the decision to turn the story into 208 page book El Sicario: Confessions of a Cartel Hit Man, a chilling account of the violence of the drug trade in the US and Mexico.
El Sicario contrasts the simple joys of his impoverished childhood years with the extravagance of his adolescence. Lured into crime by the promise of money, women and drugs, he went on to kidnap innocents and torture thousands. El Sicario was a one man good cop/bad cop act, alternating between his day job as a police cadet and his night persona as cartel hit man. With one cartel offering 250,000 dollars for his life, and another trying to recruit him, El Sicario now lives in hiding in an unspecified country.
There is no denying that this novel is hard to stomach, but remorse shines through the stone cold savagery. “He [El Sicario] is more remorseful than comes across in the book," Molloy explains. "His main reason for doing the story was to earn forgiveness for the cruel things he’s done. He wants his story to be a cautionary tale for the thousands of Mexican men that are drawn to this world and think that lifestyle is their only way out.”
The novel offers a comprehensive breakdown of the entire operation, power, corruption and paranoia of the Mexican drug war, and El Sicario even confesses to unintentionally strangling his wife. “I don’t think he’s ever tasted the sheer pleasure of a confession,” says Bowden of the admission. “I think that’s why he lost control and said things he never planned to say. After a lifetime of silence and murder it was like emptying out chambers of ore from his body.”
The El Sicario that ends the book is a repentant man starting a new drug-free life. “Whilst he doesn’t necessarily deserve our caring, it’s hard – as a human being – to not care,” the authors explain. “For one thing there is no other story that is like his – that we have heard – and for that alone, we are warranted to listen and try and learn from his experiences.”
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