Our exclusive interview with the head of Mexico’s Knights Templar drug cartel went viral on YouTube. Here Guillermo Galdos explains why he risked grave danger to bring the story of “La Tuta”.
Mexico is asphyxiating – brutalised by the drug war, corrupt army and militias, writes Guillermo Galdos. My report about Mexico’s drug lord La Tuta made this terrible reality hard to ignore.
The first time we met up with La Tuta he did not want to speak to us. He said he thought it was not the right moment – but told us to come back. The situation was incredibly tense in Michoacán state. Vigilantes were clashing with La Tuta’s cartel, the Knights Templar, and the Mexican army had just intervened to try and stop the violence.
More than 10,000 Mexican army soldiers were looking for La Tuta, and we were with him.
His men were running around loading machine guns and talking on the radio. I could hear people warning him and his men that the military was on its way. More than 10,000 Mexican army soldiers were looking for La Tuta, and we were with him.
We panicked at first – while watching him giving orders with the calmness of a heart surgeon. At one point I thought it was not going to happen. All that tension and risk we went through for nothing. Then my stubbornness won. I was not going to give up.
Against this backdrop, we managed to tell a difficult story that most journalists in Mexico don’t dare tell because of the very real prospect of getting killed.
Mexico is one of the most difficult countries to report about in the world. There are more than 15 criminal organisations controlling different parts of the country, and most of them hate journalists. More than 100,000 people have been killed in the last seven years just because money rules and the bloody drug war is devastating the country.
The world is not being informed of the terrible reality gripping the country.
When journalists do dare to report on the drug wars and their brutal activities, many are murdered. I am motivated to report on Mexico, despite the grave dangers, because I feel the world is not being informed of the terrible reality gripping the country.
For me, the interview was not about getting a news exclusive but an opportunity to look at what is happening in Mexico through one of its most powerful men. I persuaded him to talk to us by telling him this was his opportunity to give some sense to the mess that was consuming Michoacán.
I have met various drug traffickers in my life. I have also met guerrilla leaders in Colombia that had $5m on their heads, but I had never met a teacher who turned into the leader of one of the bloodiest criminal organisations in the world.
After the film went out I received hundreds of emails. In Mexico the film went viral because people there had never seen anything like it before. It embarrassed the government because people asked how they had failed to find La Tuta when a British TV crew could arrive in the country and interview him.