The Enemy (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍO DOCE)

This Malayerba column, a regular feature, was first published in RíoDoce on 16 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Enemy
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

A policeman arrived at the commander’s office. Not just any policeman, he was an officer. He said to the commander: the boss sent me. His people want you to run with them. They don’t want you making a fuss. There’s this. To show you they are good people. It’s just for starters. Let them do their work. That’s the only thing they want. That’s all.

The commander looked at him. He turned to look at the briefcase. He opened it. Wads of bills tied together with rubber bands poked out, spilled out, almost jumped out from the briefcase. No, he replied. I can’t accept. He doesn’t tell him that he’s already taken. Or that he’s honest. He doesn’t say that he works for the government and serves citizens. He simply says, no: take the bag, and remember that nothing happened here. You’ve got no problem with me.

The officer went away, crestfallen. Mouth sealed and right hand clenched tight into a fist. They said goodbye at a distance, as if they didn’t want to touch each other again. Minimal courtesy. The officer didn’t even face the commander, only gave a half turn towards him as he was stepping out. He seemed to be in a hurry. As if he was beating away on a fast retreat.

The commander watched him. He picked up the phone and asked someone to come in. A uniformed officer entered. He told the commander that the officer who left was working for a kingpin from a neighboring city, that he was doing everything he could to get into their city to control everything. Silver or lead. That’s the way they do things, boss.

Two weeks later, the commander was leaving his house. His bodyguards waited for him in another car. The commander took his assigned patrolcar. He was taking his son to school. It was early because at 0810 the school shut its gates. He heard a shot, then another, and then a hail of bullets. The guards ducked in response. The shots went everywhere: buzzing, whirring, and grazing. Hot.

He turned to look at his son. Blood ran down his arm. Even as the bullets flew, he decided to take him to hospital. The guards covered his exit, fighting fire with fire. Two were injured: one policeman and the commander’s son. Another was killed: an alleged hitman. The policeman and his son were out of danger.

The commander reported that the attack came in retaliation for his work fighting crime. He hit their interests, he told the reporters. He returned to work after a few days. Then he had to appear at the prosecutor’s office. They had already started to investigate.

We are going to invesigate. To give it to them. An official promised that justice would be done, commander. We won’t leave this alone, he reassured him. He continued by introducing the officer in charge of the investigations, heading up the special group. The officer came in. The commander trembled: it was the same officer who had offered him the briefcase. Oh, what a pleasure to meet you.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “El Enemigo,” and is available at You can meet Valdez Cárdenas at Mexico City’s Feria Internacional del Libro in the Palacio de Minería this Sunday 23 February at 3pm.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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