But the talk (and the book) was mainly about the huge drug industry on the Mexican side of the border:
This absorbing odyssey along the Mexican-American border gives pause for thought to anyone who ignores the side-effects of cocaine. Not those on the users, but the calamitous impact on Mexico and its people.At one point Vulliamy praised the work of the US police and said that was perhaps an unusual position for a Guardian writer to take. Back in standard Guardian mode he complained about widespread gun ownership in US Border states but then said the El Paso had one of the lowest murder rates in the country!
We had an interesting chat with Mr Vulliamy after his presentation. We discussed Ron Paul and the other Republican candidates. Vulliamy thought that Rick Perry would get the nomination and would win the presidency.
He said that a big problem in Mexico was what he described as the "privatisation" of previously communally owned land in the border villages. This was apparently a consequence of the introduction of NAFTA. I countered by saying that, on the contrary, such a transfer was the opposite of privatisation, and represented theft by the state of existing privately owned property to be given to the friends of the state. Land owned by the villagers since time immemorial is just as much private property as when it is owned by corporations. Vulliamy accepted my point and I extended this line of argument to cover the banking crisis in which we also saw the state bail out its friends - the exact opposite of the free market.
Vulliamy said that there is a body of opinion that holds that the financial crisis of 2008 would have happened earlier were the big banks not stuffed full with drug money.
I vividly recall my own one-day visit to Mexico that ended up with a scary drive through an unlit Tijuana trying to find the US border. After this talk that's not something I'd wish to risk again.